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Durst taking LEED in setting new green standards

The Durst Organization is out to set the standard for green building — literally.

Durst Fetner Residential (DFR) has announced the design of West 57, a 600-unit 80/20 residential building on West 57th Street between 11th and 12th Avenues. The building is designed by renowned Danish Architect firm BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group and is their inaugural North American project.

The developer of One Bryant Park, the first LEED platinum certified skyscraper in the country, has announced it will not seek LEED certification for its residential pyramid planned for West 57th Street.

“Up until now, we’ve always used LEED and we greatly respect what has been accomplished in making the public aware of the issues,” said Jody Durst, president of the organization.


“It’s really an excellent standard for those that don’t know how to get started, but we’ve been at it now for so long we think that the current standard is holding us back.”

This does not mean the family-owned development company is done with the LEED standard for good. In fact, Douglas Durst, the organization’s chairman, said the cousins hope that some of the innovations they’ll be making at the West 57th Street building will be incorporated into future LEED standards.

“Up until now LEED ,has based their energy analysis on the cost of energy, which we don’t think is the proper way to analyze a building,” Douglas Durst said. “We think the proper way is how much carbon you use.”

At One Bryant Park, for example, a co-generation plant supplies tenants with electricity straight from the basement, meaning less electricity is lost en route. Less loss means less carbon burned. But tenants pay the same rate for co-generated power as they would if the power were coming from ConEd, because of the cost of installing the on-site generator.

According to the Dursts, LEED should give more credit for the system’s carbon efficiency.

The developer also plans to install a blackwater system in the 57th Street building, which will process sewage into clean water that can be reused to flush toilets. The system will be modeled on the blackwater plant currently in use at the LEED gold certified residence the Helena, Jody Durst said.

“In the present LEED, there’s very little that addresses water savings, it’s just innovation points,” Douglas Durst said. He listed other perceived shortcomings in the LEED standards, including the points for proximity to public transportation — difficult to avoid earning in Manhattan — and some of the LEED-certified green materials, which he said aren’t practical for buildings meant to last.

Painting the floor of the Sondheim Theater with LEED-certified paint took multiple attempts, because the paint kept peeling off, according to the developers.

“If we’d used a material which lasted longer, it would have been much more efficient,” Douglas Durst said.

And the criticism don’t stop there. LEED standards address only the construction of a building, with no follow-up, Douglas Durst said.

“This building (One Bryant Park) got certified as platinum, but no one’s come back to check that we’re operating it that way,” he said.


The U.S. Green Building council is currently reviewing its standards for issuing LEED certifications.

In the meantime, the Dursts think their customers will trust in their reputation as green builders, even without the LEED stamp of approval.

“We plan to be able to quantify and demonstrate what we’ve done,” Jody Durst said.

The 57th Street site is undergoing environmental remediation that is expected to go into next year, according to the cousins.

Rezoning will be required before the innovative Bjarke Ingels design can be built. The application is before the City Planning Commission.

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