The Solaire, a LEED certified Gold building located in lower Manhattan of NYC, rents out studios and one to three bedroom apartments starting at $2750 for a studio apartment and $5800 for two-bedroom apartments. Amenities include energy-efficient Energy Star appliances, recycled materials for floors and cabinets, and floor to ceiling windows that provide ample sunlight for heating while also highly thermally insulated. A non-certified apartment complex located in the same area, will rent out a two-bedroom apartment for up to $3000. Is an extra 2800 dollars per month, which nearly equals 34,000 dollars a year, worth the part of living in a LEED-certified building?
Is it worth it to construct a new building as LEED certified if the public simply can’t afford to live in one? The Visionaire, also located in Battery Park City, is NYC’s first and only LEED Platinum building with apartment sales starting at 1.23 million dollars. You may be thinking, “who in their right mind would buy a condo for close to a one and a quarter million dollars?” But it’s in NYC. And you own the property. And it’s LEED certified. Platinum certified. Isn’t it already enough to pay that much just to live in a platinum certified building? Or is it?
Now that’s a dicey question because there is a bounty of other living accommodations that promotes sustainability without LEED certification, that are substantially cheaper. One of the many disagreements about LEED is whether LEED-certified buildings actually bring about more sustainable practices than buildings not LEED-certified buildings. An owner might complete the same construction plans to build a sustainable building without an actual sheet of paper that claims sustainability. Will an individual choose to live in a certified building instead of a non-certified building, simply because of that sheet of paper and plaque on the wall? Will individuals live in such buildings because they are actually sustainable but because they want to claim they are sustainable? What is the actual difference? Is there one?
At the end of the day, most people will try to understand what sustainability means in their life. What sustainable behavior will the public choose (or not to choose at all) to spend their time and money on? Some may choose to live in the Solaire, knowing they have already done their part in sustaining the environment, and choose not to change daily behaviors. Others may choose to live in a different apartment complex and encourage green roof gardening among their neighbors, or purchase local and organic foods, to increase sustainability. While the first option seems easier to do, most people don’t have the economic means to purchase a condominium priced at over one million dollars. Where is your limit? What are some of your current sustainable behaviors? What are some that you can do in the future? What are your limits? Will you devote more time or more effort to do something more sustainable, or even seemingly sustainable?
Written by Mary Liang, LEED Documentation and Evaluation intern for the Office of Sustainability