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Early 20th Century NYC Rental Buildings Receive Weatherization Assistance Funding

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

New York—Three New York City affordable apartment buildings, one built in 1917 and two others in 1912, are gaining energy-efficient conversions designed by New York-based LEED-accredited architecture firm Design AIDD Architects.

At 510 West 188th Street, a five-story structure built near the end of World War I, with 35 units of affordable housing, the rehab included upgraded plumbing and electrical systems, and installation of new gas risers, new roof and low-E windows. Energy efficient appliances, fixtures and lighting have also been added in all kitchens, bathrooms and common areas in this building.

At 12 and 16 Arden Street, twin buildings built around the time of the Titanic’s sinking and celebrating a 100th birthday this year, the renovations are similar to those at 510 West 188th Street. In addition, the Arden Street buildings’ heating systems have been converted from steam heat to more efficient hot water heat. Each of these buildings features six stories and 26 units of affordable housing.

The two Arden Street renovations are among the first in New York City to use Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) funding to substantially cut the energy required for heating.

All buildings are in the Washington Heights district of New York City, and owned by developer Lemie & Wolff, Inc. The three green rehabs are costing an estimated total of $7 million. One portion of the energy upgrades was implemented by the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation.

In addition to the hurdles of designing rehabs for century-old buildings, “the other challenge we faced was all this had to happen in buildings that were completely occupied,” Design AIDD Architects co-founder and principal Ian Pinto tells MHN.

“We had to convince residents it would be in their best interests to be relocated to [temporary homes] in the very close vicinity of these addresses. They were promised they would return to their apartments in newly-redesigned buildings. The work’s just been completed, and I’m told they are delighted.”

Developing energy-efficient renovation programs in new law tenement buildings is an important sign of the times, adds Andrea Harris, a Design AIDD principal. “It is also a testament to the commitment of the owner to improve the quality of its housing portfolio and promote the betterment of society as a whole,” Harris says. “Once completed, these improvements will provide tangible benefits to the residents, including healthier environments and cost savings for utility usage.”

Pinto reports that going forward, the significant savings in energy should benefit both the building owner and residents. “The most important thing for us as a firm was that we ended up with residents having cleaner air and improved quality of life,” he adds. “That’s our way of giving back to the community.”

Jeffrey Steele
New York, New York