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Residential spaces in various LEED and Passive House standard buildings in NYC Residential spaces in various LEED and Passive House standard buildings in NYC
It has long been assumed that the only way to go green is to go off the grid, build a house out of recycled materials, and set up a field of windmills and solar panels on an upstate plot of land. However, some could argue that New York City is a great place to go green. A number of shops are devoted to environmentally friendly products; acclaimed farm-to-table restaurants’ preference for serving local means fewer greenhouse gasses when transporting ingredients; fast food chains and fine dining establishments alike are embracing plant-based menu options; and recycling and composting are getting easier in buildings and on the streets.
New York’s environmental friendliness goes beyond the individual consumer. The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) is the largest public transportation system in the world, and the governor’s office just announced the deployment of zero-emission electric buses at six depots serving all five boroughs. They will have more space to travel: Following the success of the 14th Street busway that cut commuting time and improved quality of life, New York announced the addition of 20 more miles of busways and bus lanes in June 2020.

In this article:

Balton Commons, 265 West 126th Street
Balton Commons, 265 West 126th Street Harlem
Kalahari Harlem, 40 West 116th Street
Kalahari Harlem, 40 West 116th Street Harlem
The Visionaire, 70 Little West Street
The Visionaire, 70 Little West Street Battery Park City
The Solaire, 20 River Terrace
The Solaire, 20 River Terrace Battery Park City
Convivium, 515 East 86th Street
Convivium, 515 East 86th Street Yorkville
For those who’d rather ride a bike, a recent Cycling in the City report found that New York has installed 1,375 miles of bike lanes as of 2020, and that Citi Bike’s expansion is set to cover 70 square miles, reaching nearly half of New York’s residential population, by its estimated 2024 completion. Walkers quickly embraced the city’s 24 miles of active Open Streets as a silver lining of the coronavirus pandemic, and the city recently announced 21 new blocks to be added to the program in summer 2022.
Just before New York City went on lockdown in 2020, the city had announced an initiative to get garbage bags off the streets and into sealed containers; two years later, the first sealed bins were just deployed in Times Square. And at the beginning of March 2022, Mayor Eric Adams announced an agreement to turn the city-owned South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park into an offshore wind port facility. This will be one of the largest in the nation and instrumental in the city’s goals of 100 percent clean electricity by 2040 and carbon neutrality by 2050.

It cannot be ignored that New York’s buildings account for nearly 70 percent of its carbon emissions, but even that is starting to change. Yesterday, Mayor Adams was joined by Governor Kathy Hochul and former President Bill Clinton to promote the Empire State Building’s climate-friendly retrofit and use it as an example of how building owners can cut their emissions ahead of Local Law 97, which levies steep fines against buildings that do not meet certain emission limits by 2024.
Additionally, a number of new buildings are embracing sustainable construction practices and materials, if not aspiring to Passive House standards, while incorporating energy-efficient appliances, infrastructure, and amenities (think green roofs and electric car charging stations). None of this comes at the expense of aesthetics or luxury, and a certain class of buyers has come to see “LEED Certified” and “Passive House” as a new type of status symbol. As the realities and consequences of climate change can no longer be ignored, we take a look at the difference between LEED and Passive House standards, as well as listings in both types of buildings.

77-Greenwich-Street-01 Jolie via Serhant

How to Find a Green Building: LEED Certification

One of the people who has helped to drive sustainable development in New York City is David Burney. From 2004 to 2014, Burney served as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Design and Construction. In this capacity, he managed capital projects for multiple city agencies and launched the Design and Construction Excellence Initiative. Among the Initiative’s goals was a mandate to promote sustainable design projects. Burney, now a professor of architecture at the Pratt Institute, explains that despite the fact that public sector projects took the lead in terms of sustainability, the landscape is changing: “Since the widespread implementation of the USGBC LEED accreditation system most large new buildings and major renovations apply for LEED certification, both public and private.”

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a third-party verification system for green buildings. Somewhat like the more familiar USDA label used to certify organic products, LEED certifies that a building has been developed following a set of sustainability principles, which include the following:


  • Location and Transportation: Does the building offer easy access to public transportation, a car sharing service, like Zipcar, or provide onsite bicycle storage?


  • Sustainable Sites: Does the site allow for rainwater management or light pollution reduction? 


  • Water Inefficiency: Does the building include water reduction strategies? 


  • Energy and Atmosphere: Does the building meet energy performance standards? 


  • Materials and Resources: Does the building have a recycling program and a demolition and construction waste management plan? 


  • Indoor Environmental Quality: Does the building meet air quality performance standards and maximize natural resources, including daylight? 


  • Innovation: Does the building feature new technologies or materials designed to promote sustainability? 


  • Regional Priority: Has the project been designed to address local environmental challenges?
If you care about living in a sustainable building, Burney advices, “First, check to see if the building has LEED certification, and there are several levels, from silver to platinum, reflecting the degree of sustainability achieved. Then check the building maintenance and operations.” As he cautions, “Many buildings start out as LEED certified but if they are not properly run and maintained, they quickly become less energy efficient.”

This Noho penthouse, formerly owned by developer Matthew Blesso, was given a green upgrade that includes FSC-certified wood throughout and an edible rooftop garden

What is Passive House

In addition to LEED, some New York City developers are beginning to adopt another recognized standard in sustainable housing—Passive House. Originated in Germany in the mid 1990s, Passivhaus, which is also applied to public and commercial buildings, continues to gain ground due to its significant energy savings. While LEED certified buildings typically use 25-30 percent less energy, Passive House buildings generally cut energy consumption by 60-70 percent and have been known to cut energy consumption up to 90 percent. Rather than rely on solar panels or wind turbines, Passive House is a building standard focused on the development of properties that use less energy from the start.
Architect Ken Levenson, a Certified Passive House Designer and founding member of New York Passive House, emphasizes that Passive House, which arrived in New York City in 2009, has had a very different history than LEED. While LEED certified projects have traditionally been concentrated in the public sector, Levenson emphasizes, “Passive House has been dominated by single family first adopters.” However, he is now witnessing a new trend: “Multifamily is in the process of taking the lead, and we expect commercial and institutional projects to follow.”
In many respects, the fact that individual homeowners have taken the lead in the Passive House movement is not a surprise. As Levenson explains, “Passive House is narrowly focused on the things that truly drive performance—comfort, health and energy.” Another advantage is that Passive House is more accessible: “Cost is another advantage of Passive House over LEED, in that all the extra effort of Passive House is put toward optimizing the building performance, and cost optimization is part of that process. Cost is a driver, not an add-on. Consequently, properly optimized Passive House construction can cost just marginally more than conventional construction, making it not only affordable but a money maker going forward.”

Check out CityRealty's ongoing list of NYC Passive House projects here.
A sampling of Passive Houses throughout NYC
Despite the growing number of sustainable residential projects across the city, there is still a gap between the number of green buildings in the public versus private sectors. “The public sector has mandated the use of the LEED system very broadly,” Burney explains, “But there is no requirement to do so in the private sector, although the Building Code is imposing increasingly stringent requirements for energy efficiency. Government is also slowly imposing more sustainable practices on the private sector as part of a broader climate-change policy.” Burney adds that beyond these legislative changes, consumers also are increasingly looking to buy and rent in sustainability-focused developments: “The market is demanding sustainability.” The growing enthusiasm for Passive House, which has always been more accessible, arguably also reflects the growing market demand for sustainable homes.

Where to Find Sustainable Residential Buildings in NYC

Below are just five private and public residential properties informed by the principles of sustainable design. Notably, the projects range from LEED certified and Passive House developments to developments that have prioritized sustainable design principles but chosen not to seek either certification.

Roosevelt Island: Cornell Tech opened its campus on Roosevelt Island in 2017 and is home to the world’s first high-rise residential building that meets Passive House standards. The 270-foot tall building, designed by Handel Architects, features a façade that goes well beyond aesthetics. Serving at the “gills” of the building, the façade is also designed to house the building’s highly energy-efficient cooling and heating equipment.
Battery Park City: The Visionaire, completed in 2008, has had little difficulty living up to its name. Designed by Pelli Clark Pelli Architects, this NYC building was the city’s first to become LEED Platinum Certified. The condominium has been praised for its energy efficiency and indoor air quality.
The Visionaire
The Kalahari
550 Vanderbilt
Williamsburg: Designed by architect Gregory Merryweather, Greenbelt Brooklyn is situated near McCarren Park in Williamsburg. A LEED Gold Certified building since 2010, Greenbelt has a lot to boast about on the sustainability front. The building uses 40 percent less energy and 30 percent less water than comparable homes. The building was also constructed using 40 percent recycled materials. Where new materials were required, sustainable choices where made—the floors, for example, feature rapidly renewal bamboo.
Harlem: Located on the south tip of Harlem just blocks from Central Park, the Kalahari is a mixed-income and LEED Silver Certified building. Among the building’s sustainable features are its recycled building materials, bamboo flooring, green roof and reliance of renewable energy sources, including solar and wind power. Designed by Frederic Schwartz Architects, the building embodies a whole systems approach to development.
Prospect Heights: The eye-catching design of COOKFOX's 550 Vanderbilt is underscored by environmentally friendly design features. All finishes, paints, and fabrics meet low volatile organic compounds standards, and FSC-certified wood, natural stone, and other sustainable materials were used throughout the building. Each apartment has sophisticated air filtration systems that lead to high-quality air. Outside the walls, extensive planted space offers the potential to reduce the urban heat island effect and better encourage storm water retention. It is aiming for LEED Silver certification.

Listings in LEED Certified Buildings

The Solaire, Battery Park City
20 River Terrace
Design by Pelli Clarke Pelli | Developed by Albanese Organization
Completed in 2003
LEED Gold Certified

20-River-Terrace-01 The Solaire (Evan Joseph)
20-River-Terrace-02 Amenity images (COOKFOX)

20-River-Terrace-04 The Solaire, #3M (Corcoran)
From the Listing: Residence 3M is a gracious, 1,621-square-foot three-bedroom, three-bath home designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli to meet the highest level of green building certification. Upon entering this south- and west-facing corner residence, experience an abundance of natural light and direct views of the Hudson River through floor-to-ceiling windows. Enjoy both river and park views from the living room and the kitchen as well as stunning river views from the bedrooms. See floor plan and full details here.

Observatory Place, East Harlem
353 East 104th Street
Design by Gary Silver | Developed by Silverspoint Buildings
Completed in 2007
LEED Certified

353-East-104th-Street-01 All images of Observatory Place via Compass

From the Listing: Located in the environmentally-conscious LEED Certified Observatory Place this one-bedroom apartment with a bonus room will exceed your expectations! See floor plan and full details here.

Toren, Downtown Brooklyn
150 Myrtle Avenue
Design by Skidmore Owings & Merrill | Developed by BFC Partners
Completed in 2010
LEED Gold Certified

150-Myrtle-Avenue-01 All images of Toren via Corcoran

From the Listing: Looking for a townhouse in the sky? Extraordinary, rarely available Corner Duplex Penthouse with spectacular panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline, as well as seven bridges, literally make you feel like you are on top of the world! This spacious 2 bedroom, 3 bath home is perched on the 32nd and 33rd floors, with 1601 square feet of space to spread out and indulge. Prepare to be amazed by the floor-to-ceiling glass windows all around you, bringing amazing, warm sunlight beaming in throughout. See floor plan and full details here.

98 Front Street, DUMBO
Design by ODA New York | Developed by Hope Street Capital
Completed in 2021
LEED Certified

98-Front-Street-01 98 Front Street via Aaron Thompson
98-Front-Street-03 Amenities via OMG Marketing

From the Listing: Over 80% Sold. Immediate Closing

To select a two-bedroom residence is to choose among a wide variety of layouts carefully designed to reflect the spaces and functionality best suited for you. The ideal combination of family, work, entertainment and creativity that motivates your life can be accommodated in luxurious surroundings.
See floor plan and full details here.

Navy Green, Clinton Hill
8 Vanderbilt Avenue
Design by FXCollaborative | Developed by Dunn Development and L&M Development
Completed in 2015
LEED Silver Certified

8-Vanderbilt-Avenue-01 All images of Navy Green via Douglas Elliman

From the Listing: The Epitome of Modern Living in The Heart of The Brooklyn Navy Yard. Welcome home to a triple-mint one bedroom in the award-winning Navy Green, a LEED-certified new development designed by FXFowle Architects. Presenting a special opportunity to own a luminous 715SF condo with absurdly low common charges, 25yr tax abatement and a fantastic amenity package - all for under $1,100 per SF! 421-A tax abated until 2042!

See floor plan and full details here.

550 Vanderbilt, Prospect Heights
550 Vanderbilt Avenue
Design by COOKFOX | Developed by Greenland Forest City Partners
Completed in 2017
LEED Silver Certified

550-Vanderbilt-Avenue-01 All images of 550 Vanderbilt via Corcoran

From the Listing: 25yrs 421-A TAX ABATEMENT!! First resale of one of the most-coveted studio lines at 550 Vanderbilt Avenue. Residence 1516 is a designer home on a high floor with open Western views. This home offers floor to ceiling windows looking at the expansive views of Brooklyn skyline, downtown Manhattan and Statue of Liberty. See floor plan and full details here.

The Visionaire, Battery Park City
70 Little West Street
Design by SLCE Architects and Pelli Clarke Pelli | Developed by Albanese Organization and Starwood Capital Group
Completed in 2008
LEED Platinum Certified

70-Little-West-Street-01 All images of The Visionaire via Corcoran

From the Listing: Own your own piece of Heaven in the heart of Battery Park City designed especially for the most privy by renowned interior designer Lo Chen. Upon entering your fully-furnished sunlit corner home, youll immediately be wowed by the soaring 11-foot floor to ceiling windows which provide a full view of the Freedom Tower and beautiful treelined streets below. See floor plan and full details here.

The Zipper Building, Long Island City
5-33 48th Avenue
Design by SRA Architecture & Engineering and Pelli Clarke Pelli | Developed by Circle F Capital
Completed in 2019
LEED Certified

5-33-48th-Avenue-01 All images of The Zipper Building via Modern Spaces

Riverhouse, Battery Park City
2 River Terrace
Design by Ennead Architects | Developed by Sheldrake Organization
Completed in 2008
LEED Gold Certified

2-River-Terrace-01 All images of Riverhouse via R New York

From the Listing: Spacious three bed/ four bath apartment in the Riverhouse, the only LEED-certified Green condominium in North Battery Park / West Tribeca. Upon entering this home you will immediately notice the amazing southern light, magnificent Hudson River and Statue of Liberty views through the wall to wall living room windows. See floor plan and full details here.

160 East 22ndStreet, Gramercy
Design by Perkins Eastman | Developed by Toll Brothers
Completed in 2018
LEED Gold Certified

160-East-22nd-Street-01 All images of 160 East 22nd Street via Serhant

From the Listing: Fabulous opportunity to buy this turnkey 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom home in one of Gramercy's premier condominiums, just around the corner from exclusive Gramercy Park. This gracious home features 5-inch white oak flooring and contemporary finishes throughout. See floor plan and full details here.

Murray Hill Green
303 East 33rd Street
Design by Perkins Eastman | Developed by Toll Brothers
Completed in 2009
LEED Gold Certified

303-East-33rd-Street-01 All images of Murray Hill Green via Pari Passu Realty

From the Listing: No. 11H at 303 E 33rd is an expansive one-bedroom apartment illuminated by floor-to-ceiling south-facing windows that extend its entire length and wrap around the corner bedroom. Enjoy the view of the Empire State Building from its corner balcony, perfect for catching the sunset while grilling with friends. See floor plan and full details here.

Manhattan View at MiMa, Midtown West
460 West 42nd Street
Design by Arquitectonica | Developed by SCG America
Completed in 2016
LEED Gold Certified

460-West-42nd-Street-01 All images of Manhattan View at MiMa via Nest Seekers

From the Listing: A pristine high-floor apartment at the ultra-luxurious Manhattan View condominium, this 1-bedroom, 1-bathroom home is an exemplar of contemporary craftsmanship and design. Features of this Jamie Drake-designed 701 sq. ft. condo include wide plank premium brushed oak floors, triple-glazed floor-to-ceiling windows, a smart home automation system, high ceilings, a Bosch washer/dryer, and breathtaking views of the city skyline. See floor plan and full details here.

200 East 21st Street, Gramercy
Design by BKSK Architects | Developed by Alfa Development
Completed in 2018
LEED Gold Certified

200-East-21st-Street-01 All images of 200E21 via Douglas Elliman

From the Listing: 11A at 200 East 21st Street is a stunning 1,429 square foot 2-bedroom, 2-bath home with striking views and beautiful light streaming in from Southern, Western, and Eastern exposures. Thoughtfully proportioned rooms and spaces feature oversized bronze windows and 7 inch wide plank oak flooring finished in a smoked oil stain, while grand entry and interior doors feature Valli & Valli hardware throughout. See floor plan and full details here.

The Edge, Williamsburg
34 North 7th Street
Design by Stephen B. Jacobs Group | Developed by Douglaston Development
Completed in 2021
LEED Gold Certified

34-North-7th-Street-01 All images of The Edge North Tower via Compass

From the Listing: This incredible home greets you with direct Manhattan and water views you're sure to never tire of. The spacious corner living room features a private balcony overlooking Manhattan, perfect for enjoying your morning two walls of windows that let in tons of natural lightThe open kitchen and living room provide seamless entertaining options, with the gourmet chef's kitchen boasting top of the line Bosch and Miele integrated appliances, microwave, dishwasher, tons of storage space, and a breakfast bar with built-in shelving. The in-unit Bosch washer/dryer is included for added convenience. See floor plan and full details here.

Jolie, Financial District
77 Greenwich Street
Design by FXCollaborative | Developed by Trinity Place Holdings
Completed in 2021
LEED Certified

77-Greenwich-Street-01 All images of Jolie via Serhant (Rendering Binyan Studios)

From the Listing: A brand new FiDi condo graced with a curated palette of sublime fixtures and finishes, this Deborah Berke-designed 1-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom home is an aperture for natural light and enchanting harbor and Hudson River views. Features of this apartment include beautiful wide plank white oak floors, wraparound floor-to-ceiling crystalline glass windows, airy ceilings nearly 11 feet in height, an in-unit Miele washer/dryer, custom millwork, and energy efficient electric heating and cooling with variant refrigerant flow. A luxurious Bianco Mist Quartzite foyer adorned with a coat closet and powder room flows into a luminous open-concept living room, dining room, and kitchen overlooking the water. See floor plan and full details here.

123 Third Avenue, East Village
Design by Perkins Eastman | Developed by F&T Group
Completed in 2010
LEED Certified

123-Third-Avenue-01 Images of 123 Third Avenue via Brown Harris Stevens

Passive House Listings
298-East-Houston-Street-01 Interiors via Nest Seekers
From the Listing: This environmentally-friendly home consists of 2 bedrooms + a den and 3 full bathrooms. Your oversized loft-style apartment boasts floor-to-ceiling windows, panoramic city views, clean air, and an entire floor to yourself. The unit features 1,838 square feet with private elevator access and a private balcony. See floor plan and full details here.

470-Columbus-Avenue-01 All images of Charlotte of the Upper West Side via Compass
From the Listing: The Penthouse Duplex at 470 Columbus is a magnificently designed home providing indoor-outdoor space along with healthy living and true comfort. Perched atop 2 floors and overlooking the historic Upper West Side, this trophy home consists of 4 bedrooms and 4 and a half baths. Architecturally gorgeous and without peer in quality and detail, all the apartments at Charlotte of The Upper West Side set a new standard. See floor plan and full details here.

515-East-86th-Street-01 All images of Convivium
From the Listing: Feel at home wherever you choose to live with Blueground. You'll love this pretty Upper East Side furnished one-bedroom apartment with its modern decor, fully equipped kitchen, and cozy living room. Ideally located, you're close to all the best that Uptown has to offer! . See floor plan and full details here.