Mayor Bloomberg's controversial plans to rezone midtown New York, allowing for bigger and bolder skyscrapers, has found an unlikely ally in the form of environmentalists.
Re-zoning midtown would ultimately lead to the demolition of the corporate steel and glass skyscrapers, which preservationists argue are emblematic of the cutting edge modernism that swept 1950's America. However, landlords contest that - for the most part - they are poorly built copycats of seminal landmarks such as the Seagram and Lever buildings and are not particularly significant or suited for modern needs.
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A new report seems to have their back, suggesting that the most environmentally friendly solution is to demolish and replace these aging giants with properly built, efficient modern replacements. The study, completed by consultants Terrapin Bright Green, was commissioned by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, architects COOKFOX, and the landlords group Real Estate Board of New York. In brief, it concludes that - if permitted - owners could demolish and replace these mid-century buildings with a 44% larger replacement that would consume 5% less energy and offset its carbon cost of construction within 15 to 28 years.
This runs contrary to what conservationists have long said, as The Preservation Green Lab at the National Building Trust for Historic Preservation published a report last year which concluded that in almost all cases retrofitting and renovation was the better option for energy efficiency. The study, which was based on a 75 year Life Cycle Analysis of six different varieties of building in four American cities, cited energy savings of 4-46% and revealed immediate returns, rather than years down the line.
Bill Browning of Terrapin Bright Green argues that, in the case of these midtown New York skyscrapers, it's not that simple, stating: "The tragedy of these buildings is that they can't be adapted." Not only do the leaky single glazed curtain walls provide little to no insulation, but the structure of the buildings isn't substantial enough to support retrofitting double or triple glazed facades. The developers believe that these buildings have outlived their lifespan and would have already been replaced if it weren't for zoning rules, which don't allow the larger replacements needed to make the venture economical.
via Crains New York