A Model For A Sustainable Community

In New York City, improving water efficiency while responding to ever-increasing demand is a critical issue identified for action by Mayor Bloomberg in the PlaNYC Progress Report. American Water has worked with the Battery Park City Authority and private developers in Manhattan for 10 years to help implement green solutions that address supply issues while still enabling builders to achieve a viable business plan.

Battery Park Applications
American Water’s Applied Water Management Group is working with developers at six separate locations in Battery Park City to design, manage construction of and operate state-of-the-art water recycling programs. The company’s first project was for The Albanese Organization in 2000 with The Solaire, the nation’s first sustainable residential high-rise. Programs followed at four other green high-rise condominiums: Tribeca Green, Millennium Towers, The Visionaire and Riverhouse. All four are complete and in operation.

Together, these Battery Park residential systems save an average of 10 million gal of potable water per building per year. The Solaire, Tribeca Green, Millennium Towers and Riverhouse each received Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The Visionaire is the first and only LEED Platinum-certified residential building in Battery Park, and it is considered the greenest high-rise residential condominium in the country.

Each of these systems is designed to collect and recycle black water and storm water, and each features a comprehensive wastewater treatment and recycling process that is designed to assure the highest-quality water possible. Each treatment plant uses membrane filtration technology to separate waste from the water, providing a high-quality effluent. Domestic wastewater entering the system is subject to a rigorous biological treatment process using hollow-fiber microfiltration membranes, treatment with ultraviolet light to kill bacteria and both oxygen-based and nonoxygen-based treatment to remove nitrogen to comply with New York’s direct reuse standards.

The Albanese Organization’s first property in Battery Park City, The Solaire, houses a wastewater recycling system that allows it to treat 25,000 gal of wastewater per day, which is reused for flushing toilets (approximately 9,000 gal per day [gpd]), filling the cooling tower (11,500 gpd) and irrigating the building’s 10,000 sq ft of rooftop gardens (6,000 gpd). In addition to the water savings, this 293-unit apartment building uses 35% less overall energy consumption and 67% less energy at peak demand than systems in typical buildings of similar size.

Developed by The Related Cos., Tribeca Green employs a 14,000-gpd water recycling system for its 270 residences. Millennium Towers, which was developed by Millenium Partners, features a 25,000-gpd water recycling system to serve residents in its 236 units.

The Albanese Organization’s second property in Battery Park, The Visionaire, raised the bar on sustainability in an urban setting with additional features that qualified it for LEED Platinum certification. Serving 231 apartment units, The Visionaire’s wastewater recycling facility has a 25,000-gpd capacity for building and irrigation use. It is able to store up to 15,000 gal of treated effluent in its tanks.

The largest and newest system in operation, Riverhouse, developed by Centurion Inc., features the capacity to recycle up to 30,000 gpd for toilet flushing and cooling systems as well as for the common laundry facilities. These water-saving measures, along with energy- and water-efficient appliances, allow Riverhouse to use up to 50% less potable water than a residential development of similar size.

Complementary Systems
Every system is inspected twice a week and is subject to quarterly preventive maintenance checks. The treatment and recycling plants are also highly automated. In case of an imbalance or unanticipated disruption, the Applied Water Management team receives a direct alarm notice and an operator on call is immediately dispatched to handle the issue.

Beyond the water recycling systems, each building design incorporates additional environmentally friendly features, including sustainable building materials, energy-efficient fixtures and appliances, filtered environmental air quality systems and the use of rooftop photovoltaic panels. Certain design elements, too, were planned specifically with efficiency in mind. For example, Riverhouse features a “glass curtain wall” that provides access to views and daylight on every side of the building, conserving energy by lessening dependence on electrical lighting.

Green Growth
Following the success of these developments, a combined water recycling program at two new buildings, Liberty Green and Liberty Luxe, is being developed by Applied Water Management and is scheduled for completion in 2011.

It is important to recognize that sustainable residential buildings are not just attractive for the environmentally conscious: They foster economic development and help address critical water supply challenges. A large socioeconomic benefit of these systems is the offset in water supply treatment cost, as well as a deferral of capital expenditure for upgraded water and sewage infrastructure. As the recycling system both lowers the demand for new potable supply and lowers the discharge rate to existing sewers, the city is able to keep existing infrastructure in place without the need for upgrading. This can be a powerful capital planning tool.

New York City provides incentives for reducing potable demand, which further benefits the economics of these systems for developers. The city provides each building with a credit on its water and sewer bills, as the facilities are not relying on the city’s systems.

All told, these buildings serve as a model for cities looking to encourage green developments to help ease the burden on existing infrastructure and water supply demands.

Donald C. Shields, P.E., is vice president and director of technical services for Applied Water Management Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of American Water. Shields can be reached at donald.shields@amwater.com or 908.359.5501.

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