High Performance “Green” Buildings

The Madox Apartments in downtown Jersey City received a LEED Silver certification

High performance, or “green building” is the practice of designing buildings that are sustainable throughout a building’s life-cycle — from the initial siting on the property, to the design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and eventual deconstruction of the building.  Globally, almost 40% of energy related greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, with 28% coming from the operations of buildings themselves. This equals the total emissions of China and the European Union combined.

Jersey City has a Green Building Ordinance with moderate incentives to encourage building professionals to design, build and renovate high performance buildings. The City is also exploring ways to encourage and even require green buildings in certain Redevelopment Areas.

The City also has a commitment to ensuring new municipal buildings and renovation projects adhere to green standards. For example, Jersey City’s Public Safety Communications Center has been constructed to achieve a LEED Silver certification.

Green building initiatives are increasing in cities and states across America, so Jersey City’s policies are consistent with these trends.

Jersey City has a commitment to ensure that municipal buildings adhere to green standards, seen in the JCPD West District Building

The World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) launched its Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment in 2018 calling on businesses and organizations to eliminate operational carbon emissions from their building portfolios by 2030 in order to meet the climate goals of the Paris Agreement.

Types of Green Building and Certification Systems

Zero Energy Buildings combine energy efficiency and renewable energy generation to consume only as much energy as can be produced onsite through renewable resources over a specified time period.  NJ has a Zero Energy Ready Homes program, and even a manufactured net zero home is being measured for energy performance in the Garden State.

Why invest in a ultra-low energy building design? Although the expected 10% construction price premium for these buildings increases the price a few hundred dollars per year over the life of a mortgage, it is more than made up for by a 90% reduction in heating energy that can reduce your costs a thousand dollars per year or more.

The country’s first certified Passive House multi-family affordable apartment complex on Melrose St. in Bushwick, Brooklyn

Passive House is an international building standard for healthy and ultra-low energy buildings developed by the Passive House Institute (PHI), – referred to also as The Passive House Standard.  These buildings achieve a roughly 90% reduction in heating and cooling energy usage and up to a 75% reduction in primary energy usage compared to existing building stock.

In passive solar design, super-insulated buildings take advantage of the sun’s natural heating and lighting capabilities, and the ability for building materials to absorb, reflect and/or release the heat of the sun (known as thermal mass). This can eliminate the need to use any mechanical systems — or fossil fuels — for heating and cooling, allowing for renewable energy to power whatever remaining energy loads remain.  Designing passive fundamentally addresses the climate challenge and affordable occupancy for the next generation. The New Jersey Passive House Chapter offers resources for local building professionals interested in passive design. The New Jersey DEP has developed a Passive Design Guide for Developers and Communities.

The SURE House is a Passive House home from the Solar Decathlon on display at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City

A Living Building is a green building certification program and sustainable design framework for a regenerative built environment. Living Buildings produce more energy than they use and collect and treat all water on site. There is an International Living Building Challenge in which building professionals across the world compete to get their sustainable buildings certified under these strict standards, which are less common than LEED.

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the most common green building certification system in the United States. LEED considers five key categories of environmental performance: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality. There are LEED certifications for commercial buildings, schools, and single-family homes.

The Webb Apartments in Jersey City are an affordable, mixed-use building with LEED-HOMES Silver Certification

LEED offers four levels of certification that are based on how many points are awarded for the building’s performance: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has 55 buildings listed in Jersey City that have either received or are being considered for LEED Certification.

The New Jersey Chapter of the USGBC offers more information on training and certification for residents and building professionals. There is also a separate certification for LEED Interior Design and Construction.

Building and design professionals can become LEED accredited through certification training programs found on the New Jersey USGBC website.