Bijou Properties/Shawn Lowe

By now, it’s apparent that the enthusiasm for new construction in housing got a bit out of hand. In many areas of the country, brand new developments and single-family homes stand empty; many of which were built on the remains of other buildings.

All that new construction and its associated deconstruction created mountains of debt and matching mountains of waste. With the country re-evaluating its economic philosophy, the stock of existing buildings could be the fuel for a new construction boom. Bringing older buildings up to current environmental standards represents a great opportunity to invest in structures that are economically and environmentally sustainable.

Making a warehouse a home

Sustainable reuse has long been on the mind of developer Larry Bijou, managing partner of Bijou Properties, Teaneck, N.J. In 2007, his firm restored and installed a vegetated roof on a 100-year-old Hostess Cupcake plant in Hoboken, N.J., creating new retail space. The idea soon followed to retrofit the neighboring building, an old coconut warehouse, to create a sustainable multifamily housing development.

“Hoboken is really close to New York and is a very hot market,” says David Gaber, director of Bijou Properties. “This is a unique property and a unique design, and we felt that making it green and pursuing LEED certification [from the U.S. Green Building Council] would not only help the environment, but attract buyers as well.”

Thus began the process of transforming a century-old warehouse into Garden Street Lofts. The finished product integrates old and new, preserving the original architecture of the warehouse while incorporating a zinc-clad addition as a modern element to the development. Registered with USGBC as pursuing LEED Silver certification, the project currently is in the application process for LEED Gold.

Bijou Properties/Shawn Lowe

New York–based SHoP Architects oversaw the retrofit and addition. “Our work has been based less on a style-based approach than it has a performance-based approach,” says Chris Sharples, one of the principals at SHoP Architects. “To be sustainable, you have to understand energy performance. We’re not interested in adding ‘sustainable bling’ to buildings. We’re interested in integrating environmental systems during the design process”

Like any project, budget was a major part of the equation. “This was a project where residential units were going to be sold, so there was a pro forma set up for bank financing,” Sharples recalls. “We had to hold to that. It was important for us to understand how we could manage an environmentally friendly design and meet the constraints of the budget.”

Breathing Room

In aiming to create a premium living space for potential buyers, indoor air quality became one of the design team’s first considerations. “We looked at products that had zero or very low VOCs,” Sharples says. “We didn’t want that new-car smell.”

The building’s ventilation system was designed to exceed the fresh air requirements of ASHRAE 62.1-2004, “Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality,” from the Atlanta-based American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. To minimize pollutants in the air, high-density air-filtration media was used and outdoor air intakes were located away from sources of pollutants, vapors, and dust.

The building’s HVAC creates benefits for energy efficiency, as well as IAQ. A rooftop air-handling unit uses chilled water during cooling season and hot water during heating season. This supplies fresh air at 58 F (14.4 C) during cooling season and 80 F (27 C) during heating season. A fan coil unit mixes the fresh air with the interior return air and conditions it to maintain the tenant’s desired temperature. Hot-water panel radiators along the perimeter walls offset perimeter heat loss.

Gaber, who also happens to live in Garden Street Lofts, has seen the energy benefits of the building’s design firsthand. “I moved from a 1,400-square-foot (130-m2) two-bedroom apartment into a 2,000-square-foot (186-m2), three-bedroom unit at Garden Street Lofts, and my utility bill is exactly the same,” Gaber says. “We estimate a tenant will pay about 25 percent less on their utility bill at Garden Street than in a unit of the same size in a standard building.”

Up on the Roof

Having had success with the vegetated roof on the neighboring Hostess building, Bijou Properties decided to install a vegetated roof on Garden Street Lofts, as well. “Not only is the vegetated roof good for the building, it also prevents storm­water runoff, which is a huge problem in Hoboken,” Gaber says. “It lasts longer, looks better, and it’s better for the city.”

The roof also contributes to the building’s energy strategy. “The sedum roof reduces the heat-island effect and has a huge impact on the building’s cooling load,” Sharples notes.

The tenant-accessible vegetated roof also provides an aesthetic benefit. “We have a nice deck out there,” Gaber says. “It has unobstructed views of New York City. It’s really spectacular and a great amenity for the building.”

Indoor air quality was a primary focus of the design of Garden Street Lofts. No- and low-VOC products were used throughout and high-density air-filtration media was installed.
Bijou Properties/Shawn Lowe Indoor air quality was a primary focus of the design of Garden Street Lofts. No- and low-VOC products were used throughout and high-density air-filtration media was installed.

Reuse and Recycle

In the spirit of preservation, the design team worked to remain true to the original structure. “We were able to preserve much of the ornamentation on the building,” Sharples says. “We brought the building back to what it originally looked like, so it adds to the historic fabric of the district.”

Recycled and rapidly renewable materials, such as denim insulation and bamboo flooring, were used throughout the interior. An attitude of reuse and recycling was in play during every phase of the development. “We had a third-party commissioning agent document everything we were doing each step of the way. When we demolished the two-story garage, we tried to reuse as much from the site as possible,” Gaber explains. “What we didn’t use was put in separate containers, documented, and shipped off for recycling.”

“The contractor played a huge role when it came to waste management,” Sharples says. “The project recycled 82 percent of its waste. That doesn’t happen unless you have a general contractor who’s really going to make the effort.”

Bijou Properties/Shawn Lowe

Garden Street Lofts opened in January and is drawing buyers interested in green living spaces. “It was rewarding to watch the building transform from a vacant warehouse to these spectacular lofts,” Gaber says. “In the future, no one is going to want to live in a building that isn’t green.”

Green team

Owner: Bijou Properties, Teaneck, N.J.,

Architect: SHoP Architects, New York,

Engineer and LEED consultant: Buro Happold, New York,

General contractor: Del-Sano Contracting Corp., Union, N.J.,

Commissioning agent: The Dome-Tech Group, Edison, N.J.,

Materials and Sources

Low-flow lavatory fixtures: Dornbracht, Duluth, Minn.,

Eco-friendly showerhead and low-flush commode: Kohler, Kohler, Wis.,

Paint: Pure Performance Zero VOC from PPG Pittsburgh Paints, Pittsburgh,

Windows: Viracon double-glazed insulated glass from Wausau Window and Wall Systems, Wausau, Wis.,

Flooring: Bamboo Mountain, San Francisco,

Insulation: Ultra Touch Natural Cotton Insulation from Bonded Logic, Chandler, Ariz.,

Panel radiators: Rittling, Buffalo, N.Y.,