In Riverhouse Lawsuit, Not Easy Being Green

East, East Coast
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
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Riverhouse (Courtesy Steel Institute NY)

Despite its slow gestation, Battery Park City is widely considered a resounding success today, particularly in the areas of sustainable design, which was required of many of the complex’s latter day projects. Standing out among even these green stalwarts is the recently completed Riverhouse, designed by Polshek Partnership and shooting for LEED Gold, though the project now provides a bit of a cautionary tale for ambitious developers. According to the Journal, two tenants recently sued the projects’ developers for $1.5 million for breach of contract and fraud because the building was deemed not as green as it had been billed. Among the issues:

[The suit] says the owners’ engineers “found a deviation of 49%” over the LEED standards “in the cumulative size of holes and cracks allowing infiltration of cold air.”

The complaint also alleges that air temperature for heating the apartment was too low, which the owners say is a sign that the building isn’t maximizing energy efficiency.

The paper goes on to suggest that the suit may simply be a means to get out of the now exorbitant $4.2 million three-bedroom apartment. The more important lesson, though, may be on the strengths and weaknesses of sustainability in general and LEED in particular. After all, Riverhouse had once been aiming for the crown of first Platinum-rated residence in the city, yet now it has settled for Gold, a sign of the difficulty in meeting such standards. And yet the findings by the plaintiff’s engineers that the project is not even performing at that high level are both surprising and not — for rarely, if ever, are these buildings tested after the fact. (Then again, who needs to test a building’s efficacy when you’ve got Operation Green to make your case?)

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