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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.
Moreover, as recent policies demonstrate, New York's commitment to environmental friendliness goes beyond the individual consumer. Mandatory composting is currently in effect in Queens and Brooklyn; when it is active in all five boroughs by the end of the year, literal tons of trash will be removed from landfills. Congestion pricing is set to go into effect later this year, at which time fewer cars on the road will reduce air pollution. Furthermore, the money raised from congestion pricing fees will go to the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) for improvements to the world’s largest public transportation system – including, but not limited to, enhancing the subway system and building a zero-emissions bus fleet.

In this article:

Flow Chelsea, 211 West 29th Street
Flow Chelsea, 211 West 29th Street Chelsea
Navy Green, 8 Vanderbilt Avenue
Navy Green, 8 Vanderbilt Avenue Clinton Hill
Riverhouse - One Rockefeller Park, 2 River Terrace
Riverhouse - One Rockefeller Park, 2 River Terrace Battery Park City
The Butler Collection, 350 Butler Street
The Butler Collection, 350 Butler Street Park Slope
550 Vanderbilt Avenue
550 Vanderbilt Avenue Prospect Heights
Recent events are putting New York City closer to its goals of 100 percent clean electricity by 2040 and carbon neutrality by 2050. In March 2022, Mayor Adams announced an agreement to turn the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal into one of the nation’s largest off-shore wind port facilities; more recently, Brooklyn Daily Eagle announced that construction on the transformation could begin as soon as this spring. A borough away, the Astoria Gas Turbines site will be repurposed into a converter station for offshore wind power.
It cannot be ignored that New York’s buildings account for the vast majority of its carbon emissions, but that is starting to change. In December 2023, the New York City Council approved City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality, a package of zoning changes that makes it easier for buildings to add climate-friendly features like solar panels, electric vehicle charging stations, and better insulation. This came days before the first compliance date of Local Law 97, which requires buildings over 25,000 square feet to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.
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 77 Greenwich Street (Binyan Studios)

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 certification seal Look for a seal like this (The Solaire, April 2024 - CityRealty)

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.

Beekeeper on roof deck overlooking the Hudson River Beekeeper tending to The Solaire's hives (Laura Randall/Optimist Consulting)

Where to Find Sustainable Residential Buildings in NYC

Below, see a selection of 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. We also look at listings in sustainably designed buildings throughout New York City.

Battery Park City: In one of New York’s most sustainable neighborhoods, The Solaire stands out for its naturally harvested and recycled building materials, photovoltaic panels, high-level humidification and ventilation systems, Energy Star appliances, and black water treatment and reuse system that irrigates the nearby Teardrop Park. It is little wonder the building was named “America’s first environmentally responsible residential tower” and chosen for one of the American Institute of Architects' Top Ten Green Awards when it opened in 2004.

More recently, amidst its conversion from rental to sales units, The Solaire’s interiors were reimagined with noise-reducing Low-E casement windows and environmentally friendly appliances and finishes. And when residents move in, they are gifted a jar of honey harvested from the rooftop apiary – in recognition of the importance of honeybees to the food supply, Best Bees manages beehives on the roof of The Solaire (separate from the outdoor amenity space overlooking the Hudson River and Teardrop Park.
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.
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

10 availabilities from $855K

20-River-Terrace-01 The Solaire (Evan Joseph)

The Solaire, #11C (Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group)

Tribeca Green, Battery Park City
210 Warren Street
Design by Robert A.M. Stern Architects | Developed by Related
Completed in 2004
LEED Gold Certified
6 availabilities from $833K

210 Warren Street Tribeca Green (CityRealty)

Tribeca Green, #21C (Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group)

98 Front Street, DUMBO
Design by ODA New York | Developed by Hope Street Capital
Completed in 2021
LEED Certified
3 availabilities from $790K

98-Front-Street-01 98 Front Street via Aaron Thompson

98 Front Street, #5K (Corcoran Group)

Navy Green, Clinton Hill
8 Vanderbilt Avenue
Design by FXCollaborative | Developed by Dunn Development and L&M Development
Completed in 2015
LEED Silver Certified
1 availability for $750K

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

Navy Green, #10E (Corcoran Group)

550 Vanderbilt, Prospect Heights
550 Vanderbilt Avenue
Design by COOKFOX | Developed by Greenland Forest City Partners
Completed in 2017
LEED Silver Certified
4 availabilities from $650K

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

550 Vanderbilt, #220 (Corcoran Group)

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
6 availabilities from $950K

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

The Visionaire, #20AB (Serhant LLC)

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
1 availability for $1.55M

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

The Zipper Building, #4A (Compass)

Riverhouse, Battery Park City
2 River Terrace
Design by Ennead Architects | Developed by Sheldrake Organization
Completed in 2008
LEED Gold Certified
5 availabilities from $1.35M

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

Riverhouse - One Rockefeller Park, #19EF (Serhant LLC)

160 East 22nd Street, Gramercy
Design by Perkins Eastman | Developed by Toll Brothers
Completed in 2018
LEED Gold Certified
1 availability for $1.5M

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

160 East 22nd Street, #10B (Compass)

303 East 33rd Street, Kips Bay/Murray Hill
Design by Perkins Eastman | Developed by Toll Brothers
Completed in 2009
LEED Gold Certified
2 availabilities from $697K

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

303 East 33rd Street, #10E (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

Manhattan View at MiMa, Midtown West
460 West 42nd Street
Design by Arquitectonica | Developed by SCG America
Completed in 2016
LEED Gold Certified
6 availabilities from $1.425M

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

Manhattan View at MiMa, #55H (Sothebys International Realty)

200 East 21st Street, Gramercy
Design by BKSK Architects | Developed by Alfa Development
Completed in 2018
LEED Gold Certified
3 availabilities from $1.6M

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

200E21, #9D (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

The Edge, Williamsburg
34 North 7th Street and 22 North 6th Street
Design by Stephen B. Jacobs Group | Developed by Douglaston Development
Completed in 2021
LEED Gold Certified
2 availabilities from $925K

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

The Edge South Tower, #19J (Compass)

77-Greenwich-Street-01 77 Greenwich Street (Binyan Studios)

77 Greenwich Street, #32B (Reuveni LLC)

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

1 availability for $5M

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

123 Third Avenue, #15A (Brown Harris Stevens Residential Sales LLC)

Passive House Listings

298 East 2nd Street, #6 (Compass)

RoseBk, #3 (Compass)

The Butler Collection, #8B (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

60 White Street, #4E (Compass)

Charlotte of the Upper West Side, #UNIT2 (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

Convivium, #706 (Bond New York Properties LLC)

Flow Chelsea, #7B (CORE Group Marketing LLC)