ABOUT THE ARCHITECT:
John Woelfling is committed to creating sustainable and resource-efficient designs, using an integrated and holistic approach that reduces impacts on the environment and positively effects the health and comfort of building occupants. He leverages his broad experiences working across project typologies, from education and recreation to healthcare and infrastructure, to inform his leadership of the firm's mixed-use residential projects. A recognized Passive House expert, John's focus on sustainable design practices is guided by proactive education of evolving green technologies and incorporating them into his design work.
He frequently lectures about affordable housing and sustainability, speaking at the Center for Architecture, AIA NYS, Urban Green and GreenBuild, Forum for Urban Design, Reimagine Conference, and the PHIUS Passive House Conference. John holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Virginia Tech.
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Doug Patt (DP)
Let's go inside the vault. The design vault.
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John Woelfling (JW)
We looked at that rectangle and where the opportunity was to expand the building horizontally, and then really started to figure out where the best units would be located, where the best apartment layouts would be in the existing building. It was actually a challenge. We were not going to change the fenestration where the windows are located or the size of the windows.
So that really dictated a lot of the apartment placements and the size. So I think we were pretty clever about putting all the like fundamentals and figuring out how the floorplan would come together.
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This is my guest, John Woelfling. I'll share more about him shortly. In this episode from the Design Vault, we highlight John's project 50 Nevins Street. 50 Nevins Street is located in downtown Brooklyn. It literally appears to be two buildings in one. The approach was to reinvigorate a century old building through gut renovation and addition, which provides affordable housing, housing for formerly homeless individuals and mental health services.
The historic site, with its new ten story addition, features 129 new apartments. The building was originally designed by famed Brooklyn architect Frank Freeman, opened in 1913 as a YWCA. In the early 1930s an extensive portion of the building was shaved off to enlarge. Schermerhorn Street and make way for the subway line. That adjustment resulted in an imbalance to the original Colonial Revival building.
The new couple design ascribes value to the existing building and helps restore the balance it had lost. The existing red brick building remains shorter with a classical cornice. The new building sits slightly taller, flush and adjacent with a recessed connector which visually separates the architecture. The contrast in masonry color, dark connector and stylistic changes to the forms and facades set the two buildings apart esthetically, though clearly their co-combined.
Hi, I'm Doug Pat and this is Design Vault. John Woelfling is a partner at Dattner Architects in New York City and holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Virginia Tech. John leverages his broad experiences working across project types like education, recreation, health care and infrastructure to inform his leadership of the firm's mixed use residential projects.
John is a recognized passive house expert. His focus on sustainable design practices is guided by proactive education of evolving green technologies and incorporating them into his work. John's committed to creating sustainable, efficient designs that use an integrated, holistic approach. He frequently lectures about affordable housing and sustainability. Speaking at the Center for Architecture, the New York State AIA, Urban Green and Green Build, Forum for Urban Design, Reimagine Conference and the Phius Passive House Conference.
So welcome, John. Nice to have you with us today. So tell us a little bit about Dattner Architects in New York City. Where are you guys located? What's the size of the firm and what type of work do you do?
00;03;17;22 - 00;05;20;11
So Dattner Architects is a firm that's been around for close to 60 years. We are located in Midtown Manhattan, just like a ten minute walk from the studio, so it's nice and easy to get over here. We've been there for a little over a year and a half, but our offices have been in New York City for our entire life of the firm, we’re about 110 people now.
I just met with a few people and we're looking at hiring some more people. So it's a good time to be practicing in New York City and working on housing and the wide variety of work that my firm does. We do a mixed bag of cornucopia of project types. We do housing, which is what we're going to talk about today.
We do subway stations, we do marine transfer stations for garbage, we do a salt shed here or there, medical health care, schools, libraries, a whole mixture of projects. I'm going to talk about some of the advantages that gives us a little bit further on if we can.
One of the projects that you or maybe some of your listeners know is a project that's on the West Side Highway at Spring Street. It is a salt shed. These types of projects that you might normally see that are a salt shed are very utilitarian domes, and they just protect the salt from the elements. But our project, we did something kind of clever, which was we created this shell that was inspired by the crystal and shape of the salt. So it's this kind of crystal that sits along the water along the West Side highway.
So if you're going up and down the West Side Highway, you've probably seen this. Keep your eyes open for it now. But that's an example of how my office has this sensibility of taking these very civic things that could be very plain and very understated and look for those opportunities. And sometimes we hit a home run, sometimes, you know, we get on base.
But each one of those projects is a real opportunity to take a civic piece of architecture, which is what we do. We do civic architecture, and we look to make the city, the city that we live in the best that it can be. So I'm very proud to be part of the work that we do. It's a large group of people, as I said, 110 people. It's inspiring every day to be able to go into the office and work with such a great group of people.
00;05;20;14 - 00;05;37;25
That's so great. I mean, you're doing exactly what you're taught to do in architecture school, right? You're taking advantage of the project at hand, you're being creative, you're being thoughtful, you're impressing the client, you're making beautiful things for people that live in the city. It sounds fun and it's a good time to be working. You said you're busy.
00;05;38;02 - 00;06;15;19
Yes, we are busy. We've had some ups and downs. But I do think one of the advantages of our firm is that we have this mixed group of typologies. So, you know, when housing was like going gangbusters a couple of years ago, we were really busy and a lot of our work was housing. But as things have shifted over to more infrastructure, which is actually what we're seeing, we're seeing a lot more investment in infrastructure.
We're having those subway type projects, those marine transfer stations, those types of utilitarian transportation and infrastructure projects are taking over a greater percentage of our work. So we're continuing to stay busy. So the old adage of diversifying your portfolio applies to many, many things.
00;06;15;21 - 00;06;20;29
So you are a principal in the firm. How long have you been there and what's your role in the office now?
00;06;21;01 - 00;08;13;19
So I have been a principal there for 20 years. I've been practicing as an architect in the city for 30 years. So I landed at Dattner relatively early in my career and found it to be a great place to stay and work. So I've been there for that long. One of the things that I focus on now is our housing work, our housing studio.
As I mentioned a few minutes ago, the housing work has been a great source of workload in the past decade, 15, ten years. As that work became more and more important in the office, we needed to have leadership to take over and really guide that practice. And one of the things that me and others in the office have been focusing on is integrating really innovative, sustainable design strategies into our housing.
And this, I think, has its biggest benefit in affordable housing. The way housing often gets developed in dense urban environments like New York City is that it is the harder to develop sites that are most likely to be affordable housing because they are the less desirable sites, the sites that are either adjacent to a highway, adjacent to a subway, difficult geometry, a lot of rock, some sort of challenging situation, which thank you for the recognition that my firm and me personally are doing what architects are trained to do looking at these challenges and finding the opportunities.
So that's what we do. We often are faced with challenging sites that maybe are right near infrastructure that is really adding to pollution and environmental degradation. So this idea of sustainable, affordable housing I think is really in our work translated into environmental justice, taking people who might normally live in these underserved communities that have this infrastructure and a real inequity for environmental considerations and trying to make that better. And one of the ways we do that is through Passive House.
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So let's dig in here and talk about our building. Tell us a little bit about 50 Nevins Street. So how did your office get the project?
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So one of our clients, ICL, which stands for Institute for Community Living, and they are a not for profit organization that does just tremendous, phenomenal work in the city, serving really at-risk underserved people in New York City. They owned this building. They purchased it in 1986. As you mentioned in the intro, it was originally designed as a YWCA as an SRO, a single room occupancy building.
So all the rooms were like single bedded rooms. There was a common cafeteria and kitchen and common bathing facilities. So it was like really stacking people in. And this was like an old model of housing people that was, you know, appropriate at a certain time in the city's history. But not really contemporary residential standards, what we would expect today.
So that was kind of the history of this building. You also mentioned the shaving off of the north end of the building, which actually we suspected that through some research, but we didn't really get it confirmed until we got into the building and started doing the demolition and saw, oh, this is where they replaced this column with a different type of steel that was in the original building.
It was riveted steel. In the new portion it was rolled sections. We'd see the back up wall or actually the composite wall. And the original building was all brickwork. It was all bonded brick wall in the new building in the modified part that happened when they widened the street, it became a terracotta block back up with then the finished brick in front, the window details were different. So it was actually really interesting to have that kind of confirmation and see it once the demo all happened. The building has this legacy of being modified and I think serving the greater good, the widening of the street and the shaving off of 20 feet of the building was done so that there would be this greater public amenity of the subway station that would be improve the life of all New Yorkers.
00;10;13;16 - 00;10;18;24
Yeah, interesting. It's all related. So what was the building next to your building?
00;10;18;27 - 00;11;33;13
The building next to our building was a recently constructed hotel, which was a very different building type, superstructure type construction techniques, and much taller than the existing building as well. So it was a really dominating presence. So one of the things that we tried to do and I think we were pretty successful is kind of mitigate that presence.
It was just to the west of our site. But yeah, we wanted to kind of bridge that more contemporary with the traditional classic building that was retained on the site. The strategy that we employed for the redevelopment was to expand the building both vertically and horizontally. The horizontal piece was easy. You just, you know, you build next to the building.
There was a parking lot. Basically a service area for the existing building, which is, you know, very handsome pre-war building. But that pre-war building kind of vintage came with a lot of burdens or a lot of legacy issues that made the building more difficult to use as a contemporary building that needed to be handicapped accessible.
The systems were out of date really at the end of their service life. So we had to do some major kind of heroic things to this existing building to keep it.
00;11;33;13 - 00;11;34;14
And you wanted to keep it?
00;11;34;21 - 00;12;03;18
Yeah, absolutely. It was such a handsome building also, I've mentioned sustainable design, but one of the most sustainable things that you can do if you're doing a project is to keep an existing building, keep the shell, keep as much as you can. Now, obviously, you've got to like do some demolition and throw some materials away. But if you can keep that building out of the landfill, keep that building from having to be shipped to the landfill and all the energy that goes into that retaining that energy that was originally used to build the building, that's one of the most sustainable things that you can do of all.
00;12;03;24 - 00;12;06;09
So tell me, is the subway system still there?
00;12;06;11 - 00;12;21;03
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. It is. We don't quite feel it rumbling in the building when it goes by, but there were some really special supportive excavation considerations that we had to do. We had to be really concerned about settlement. So there was a lot of thought put into the foundations of this building.
00;12;21;03 - 00;12;22;27
Yeah, the new foundations.
00;12;23;00 - 00;13;57;28
So the new foundations were complicated. The existing building foundations were also complicated. When we did this vertical expansion above the existing building, I mentioned earlier the term heroic, and it really was heroic. I mean, when I look back on this, I think, Oh my God, what was I thinking? And we actually convinced somebody to do this. We convinced a contractor to do this.
We convinced our client, which, you know, there are great clients. I don't want to make it sound like I've deceived them, but it was a really courageous project to both undertake by all parties. In the existing building we built above, there was additional load that we were superimposing on the existing superstructure in that building. We had to brace one of the columns so that we could lower the footing and increase the size of the footing.
And the way we did that was and when I say we, I mean it's really the contractor that did this. We came up with the concept, but they executed it. There was a huge beam that was spanned from one column to another that supported this column temporarily, that we were going to lower the footing on, and they jacked that beam up and supported that column so that the existing footing that was undersized could be pulled out, excavated further down, and then a new footing could be introduced and an extension of the column.
So gutsy acrobatics to do this. And the way they tested whether that beam, a temporary beam that was put in, whether it separated the footing from the column, was they took a piece of paper and they slipped it between the footing and the base plate of the column to see if it was actually separated. So they wanted to test that to make sure there was daylight before they pulled out that existing footing. Phenomenal construction sequencing and logistics. It was a gutsy project I'm very proud of.
00;13;58;01 - 00;14;00;21
So what were the project restrictions like for you guys?
00;14;00;26 - 00;15;33;11
So there were a couple of restrictions. When we first started looking at this, we wanted to increase the density of the project because it was a rare kind of once in a building's lifetime opportunity to increase the amount of affordable and supportive housing that could be provided in downtown Brooklyn. So our client ICL, knew that this was kind of their one chance.
So we looked at a couple ideas, a couple of options, and to get to 129 units, we had to bend, maybe break the rules of the New York City zoning resolution. And the way you do that is you go through something called a ULURP. It's a process that involves community engagement. It involves talking to city planning, New York City city planning departments, and doing something that is not as of right.
The current zoning resolution and building code allow you to build certain things. As long as you get approval from the Department of Buildings, you can build those. But we needed to bend the rules here or break the rules to make this actually happen. So we went to the various city agencies, went to community boards and made this proposal to expand the building vertically, to increase the floor area ratio, the amount of floor area that you can build on the site.
And we were successful in that because I think a lot of these stakeholders recognized that this project was going to really make a difference to so many people's lives and be a community asset. So normally we've all heard the term NIMBY, not in my backyard. Normally. That's one of the things that we bought up against when we do these types of projects and there was some of that, but I think it was much more toned down because people recognized the benefit of this project.
00;15;33;18 - 00;15;37;18
So did you guys have the building completely designed when you went to the people?
00;15;37;21 - 00;15;48;12
No. We had the vision. We kind of had a good idea how many units were going to go into the building. We knew what the program was going to be. We had some of the renderings completed because that's really important to making that pitch to stakeholders.
00;15;48;18 - 00;15;51;24
What about height requirements for you guys? What limited you?
00;15;52;00 - 00;16;15;09
I'm going to try not to get too much into the weeds and the zoning resolution, but this is it actually falls into a limited height district in downtown Brooklyn, which we adhered to, but we needed the increased floor area. The height was somewhat limiting, but there were other limitations on the building as well. We could only add so many floors onto the existing building before we kind of maxed out on what we could really feasibly do with the existing foundations and the existing superstructure.
00;16;15;11 - 00;16;24;13
So let's talk a little bit about the building plan. So the existing building is like a long rectangle. So what did you guys do with your additions?
00;16;24;15 - 00;17;55;23
So one of the really critical things for affordable housing in most housing, all housing is efficiency. And the efficiency was really driven by the desire to maximize the number of units that we could put here so we could serve the most people. So we looked at that rectangle and where the opportunity was to expand the building horizontal lean and located our cores, our elevator and our stairs in a spot that worked best for that, and then really started to figure out where the best units would be located, where the best apartment layouts would be. In the existing building, it was actually a challenge. We were not going to change the fenestration where the windows are located or the size of the windows. So that really dictated a lot of the apartment placements and the size. New York City has something called light and air requirements for the apartments, you need to have a certain size window for a certain size room, and you can't go below that for both light daylight and ventilation.
So the existing building’s layout was determined largely not completely, but largely by the existing fenestration layout. And then we had more flexibility in the new building portion, but that was also a challenge because it was a very limited floor plates and it really had to integrate with the existing building. We had corridors that we had to figure out.
We placed the elevator in the inside corner where the two buildings meet, because that's a place where you can't really put apartments because there's no windows there. So I think we were pretty clever about putting all the, like, fundamentals and figuring out how the floor plan would come together.
00;17;55;25 - 00;18;01;04
How did the apartment sizes compare from the old building to the new building? Are they exactly the same?
00;18;01;06 - 00;18;57;09
No, it is dramatically different. The original SRO, the single room occupancy, I mean, the rooms were eight feet wide, ten feet deep. So really puny and not in any way contemporary or fair housing model for the residents that were going to come back. So we basically blew out all those interior partitions and relaid out the building interiors.
The original building was actually a double loaded corridor. And when I said below the corridor, I mean there's a hallway down the middle and it's got apartments on either side, fairly efficient way to do it. But it was such a narrow building and the site is so narrow that when we redid the building in this more contemporary model of apartments, we couldn't fit a double loaded corridor in there.
So it's really a single loaded corridor in the existing building. In the new building, we had more flexibility in the site dimension, so we were able to do a double loaded corridor in that portion. But it was, yeah, a real challenge to adapt the existing building. But as I said, you know, it's one of the most sustainable things you can do.
00;18;57;16 - 00;19;01;06
Are the apartments a lot larger in the new building and the windows taller?
00;19;01;12 - 00;20;38;07
I would say in the new building, no, they're not significantly larger. They're just kind of what they are. I think the windows are maybe a little bit taller, certainly wider. We wanted to have some affinity between the two buildings. We didn't want to have like completely different fenestration sizes, which really I think would be inequitable to the people who would move into this building.
But we did in many ways, we made the new building distinct from the existing building. You go around New York City or any other city that's been around for a while and you see these buildings that are historic and have been adapted. You know, there's a couple of ways you can do it. You can either be matchy matchy about it and try to replicate in new construction and new materials a very similar thing.
And that's usually pretty apparent. It's never seamless, even if you could make it perfectly matching, I just don't think that's genuine. I don't think it's a truthful representation of where we are in the construction and it's not necessary. There may be times when it's merited, but it shouldn't be your knee jerk reaction. It shouldn't be the starting point.
So one way is to be absolutely seamless about it. One is to put a cap on top of the building. But we wanted to make this building really tell a story about the history of it. So we basically wrapped this new piece of contemporary construction up in around the existing building and allowed it to kind of finish off the existing building.
You mentioned earlier some of the adaptations that have happened to the building that I think really compromised the original integrity of the design, the symmetry and the way the building ended. So I think we kind of rectified that with this new construction that comes over the top and helps finish the building in a way that I think looks more appropriate.
00;20;38;12 - 00;20;42;27
So tell me about the cornice on the existing building. Is that new or was that there?
00;20;43;02 - 00;20;51;14
That's actually a really interesting question. The cornice we thought from the street level. Oh, that's the original cornice. It looks very detailed and looks contemporary on the building.
00;20;51;16 - 00;20;52;11
00;20;52;11 - 00;21;05;12
It's gigantic. Yeah, it's probably four feet tall and overhangs three feet. It's yeah, it's enormous. But we got up there and when we started to do that demolition that I mentioned earlier, it's made of fiberglass. So it was actually done some time, I think in the…
00;21;05;12 - 00;21;06;06
Sixties or so?
00;21;06;06 - 00;21;27;27
I think it was actually in the eighties. I think after ICL originally bought the building, they did a couple modifications to make it better suit their needs, not to the extent that we'd most recently renovated, but they, I think, replaced the existing cornice with a fiberglass one. The fiberglass one is in great shape. We kept it. We like took it off where we had to for construction sequencing and logistics, but then put the thing back and just re-caulked it. It's done now.
00;21;27;28 - 00;21;40;09
But it's a great cap to the existing building and it really sets the two buildings apart. And when you look at the additions, it all kind of makes sense. And that cornice I think does a lot to do that.
00;21;40;14 - 00;21;53;23
Yeah, it's a very formal gesture, that retaining it and then allowing that to be part of this kind of bridge. In this reveal that you also mentioned earlier, the reveal is very intentional to help make that separation very visible and legible.
00;21;53;29 - 00;22;01;25
So did you guys have to make many structural changes to the existing building? You gutted it and it's steel? On the interior?
00;22;01;25 - 00;22;06;18
Steel frames, multi exterior wall. We did do window replacements.
00;22;06;20 - 00;22;08;26
Changed the way the walls are insulated?
00;22;08;29 - 00;23;14;11
We did, yeah. We did a spray-on insulation. I know there's some critique of spray on insulation, but it really was the right material for this because it gave us our vapor barrier and our improved insulation all in one shot. But yeah, we did that on the inside of the building. One of the principles of Passive House, which is a system to really decrease the building's energy requirements, you significantly drive down the energy loads in a building using the system.
And the way you do that is a high performance building exterior. That's one of the strategies, is you make a high performance building exterior, which is both your windows and your insulation and your continuity of the insulation and your air vapor barrier. So in historic buildings you're somewhat limited with what you can do with that continuous insulation because you've got your slabs coming in, the slabs are buried on the exterior wall or the steel, but there's thermal bridges that just can't be avoided in these buildings of this timeframe.
But we did the best we could. And on balance, with the insulation on the inside and the new building’s envelope, we were able to get a building that could easily comply with the energy code. So yeah, we had to insulate the existing buildings walls and that's how we dealt with that.
00;23;14;18 - 00;23;22;17
You guys had to replace some of the existing brick. So talk a little bit about that and then tell us what kind of brick you used on the new addition.
00;23;22;20 - 00;24;41;25
Sure. Yeah. The existing brick, we had to undo some sins of the past at lintels the repairs that were done previously. Not quite sure when they were done with maybe a little bit less sensitivity to matching the brick and the mortar. So that was some of the repair work that we did at the existing building. The existing building also has a base, a very formal base.
It's a very classical design to have that base. So we wanted to, that was another one of these affinity points that we wanted with the new building. So we created this base, which was a dark grounding brick that's a Glen-Gery product, it's a Black Hills velour. The velour is the finish on the brick. So that kind of established the base of the building.
Then above that, we did a much lighter, more contemporary brick, also a Glen-Gery product, White Plains velour. Again, the velour is the finish of the texture of the face of the brick, and we did similar coursing, the mortar is very different. The mortar in the White Plains is its own mortar. The existing buildings, mortar repairs were their own mortar, so they would match that building's texture and coloration.
But through a combination of the same brick size, the same coursing, and also picking up on that limestone detailing that's in the existing building we did kind of create this affinity between the two buildings. So they're definitely distinct from each other, but they're also kind of of a family.
00;24;42;01 - 00;24;48;23
Yeah, it's a nice touch. It ties the two buildings together. So how long did this whole process take from beginning to end?
00;24;48;25 - 00;26;00;29
That is a good question. So the ULURP is something that you don't normally undertake. The ULURP is a discretionary approval process, so that added about a year to the design time. So I would say it took about 18 months to design the building, and the construction of it was also really complicated. It took, I think, 30 months to build it, and that included demolition, it included the excavation, and a global pandemic.
So it was one of these projects where, you know, we had to figure out how to do this, how to work remotely, work with the contractor, with all these site safety considerations. So we were fortunate enough that in the city there was a program that allowed for affordable housing to proceed. So it was told to the Department of Buildings that this is an affordable housing project and they give you a special permit that you post on the construction barricade.
And that allowed us to proceed. Now, it doesn't mean that we could proceed business as usual. Before the pandemic, there were all sorts of hand-washing stations and protocols for staff to be, you know, separate. And we would show up on site, we'd have masks, we wouldn't walk between crowds of people. So the fact that it got done in two and a half years is kind of a real testament to the partnership between ICL, the contract and the design team.
00;26;01;05 - 00;26;21;21
So you'd mentioned the unique construction detail with this steel column that you guys had to alter the foundation for. What about some of the masonry on the exterior? Were there any unique construction details that you guys had to come up with? For example, for the connector, how did you guys end up doing that? I mean, is it all pretty straightforward?
00;26;21;23 - 00;27;03;24
Well, yeah, I guess straightforward is a real simplification of what's involved. But yeah, we had to figure out where the steel was going to go, where we were going to break that new steel versus the existing steel. There's got to be some tolerances for movement and construction tolerances. That bridge was really made through that recessed metal reveal that you see separating the two buildings.
So we made it easier on ourselves by doing it in that different material that allowed for a lot of tolerance. It could be pushed back 18 inches and if, you know, was 16 inches in one place and a little bit different on the other side, you couldn't really tell because it was a very different material. So I think we're smart about making our lives in the contractors' lives a little bit easier.
00;27;04;01 - 00;27;08;11
And how does the new additions touch the building next to it?
00;27;08;11 - 00;27;12;07
There is a seismic joint.
00;27;12;07 - 00;27;13;06
Really? Is that pretty typical?
00;27;13;06 - 00;27;41;21
It's pretty typical, yeah. And it's based upon the various heights of the building. For every 50 feet it's one inch. So I think we had a setback from the property line three inches because we were just over 100 feet. So for every 50 feet you got one inch. So if you're 110, you got three inches. So we had something called an MCO joint, which is just a squishy finished joint that you kind of stuffy in after everything else is up and constructed. And that allows for any sort of seismic movement in case there's an earthquake.
00;27;41;23 - 00;27;45;28
So tell me a little bit about the Enterprise Green Communities Program.
00;27;46;00 - 00;31;03;17
It is a program that any affordable housing project that is going to be using public funds needs to adhere to. It's a little bit like LEED, LEED is a very broad system. So Enterprise and LEED are broad. They talk about community connected communities, recycled materials, water usage, energy usage, healthy interior environments. So that system is really helpful and I think it helps there be a consistency through all of the affordable housing that's being built now that there is this level of sustainability that is not only about carbon, it's about water, it's about interior indoor air quality.
So that's a really important system. The Passive House system that I've touched on a little bit earlier takes one piece of that, the energy piece of it and really ramps it up. So Passive House is about investing in that building exterior. You have a high quality envelope with continuous insulation, continuous air barrier that allows for very little air to come in or out of the building.
And that continuity is also part of the windows. And the windows are usually high performance windows that are either triple glazed or just high performance glazing. And what that really allows the envelope of the building to do is to be almost like a winter jacket. I think a good analogy aside from the winter jacket analogy, is like a thermos, an insulated cup versus just the standard deli coffee cup.
Your deli coffee cup is going to lose the heat in the coffee pretty quickly. If you've got the thermos, it's going to retain that heat for a lot longer. So what that allows you to do in the building is retain interior internal heat gains. And the internal heat gains are lighting, appliances, people occupying the space. So those internal heat gains that you can gain passively and retain in the building allow you to really drive down those heating loads in the building.
So in a building built in New York City, similar to 50 Nevins on its scale and its size and its number of occupants, you can heat the apartment with a hand dryer, so you really drive down those heating loads. You've got to cool the building too. So that high performance envelope also helps keep that cooled air, that energy that's invested in the air, keep that inside the building.
It's not leaking outside the building. You're not getting hot, humid air bleeding into the building when you're exhausting the bathrooms and the kitchen. So Passive House is really taking the energy component of any affordable housing building and really ramping up the stakes and making it a much more high performance building. There's more to it than that. The mechanical systems need to be designed and balanced for that.
There's domestic hot water that needs to be taken into consideration, but it's an area of practice that we are really pushing for and advocating with our clients for not only just being democratic and equitable for the buildings and the environments that they're often located in, but there's also regulatory pressures that are coming down the pike. There's something called Local Law 97, which is going to fine buildings if they don't have certain energy performance, if they emit too many emissions, whether it's carbon or sulfur dioxide or whatever, there's metrics for buildings of certain types and their sizes. And if you are not meeting those standards, there's going to be penalties to pay.
00;31;03;19 - 00;31;04;26
So that's coming down the pike.
00;31;04;26 - 00;31;42;01
That's coming down the pike. I think 2025 is the first threshold or maybe it's 2026. But we're designing buildings now that are going to take a year to design, two years to build. So by the time they're operational, we're in Local Law 97. So we're advising clients to not put your heads in the sand on this. You know, a lot of people aren't doing this.
The intense heat that we've been feeling, the wildfires in Canada, the fires and migration, we're starting to see the stuff hit the fan. So our clients are reading the writing on the wall. Local Law 97. There is a Local Law 154 that's banning gas usage.
00;31;42;04 - 00;31;43;20
00;31;43;20 - 00;31;53;10
Yeah, natural gas. And you've actually done something that I want to check you on. Yeah, sure. It's natural gas, but who told you it's natural gas? It's fossil gas. The idea of that, it's natural. Okay.
00;31;53;10 - 00;31;55;02
I was distinguishing from propane.
00;31;55;06 - 00;32;17;11
Okay, well, it's kind of all the same stuff. It's all carbon that goes into the atmosphere and affects our climate. So I don't mean to be a jerk about it. And I find myself kind of being programmed by certain, you know, sales pitches and how they want you to perceive these things. So, yes, there's a natural gas ban, however nice you want to say it. So there's all these regulatory pressures.
00;32;17;11 - 00;32;20;23
When you say local law. So this is New York State, New York City?
00;32;20;26 - 00;33;06;12
Local law is just New York City. There's state legislation that's also banned gas fired equipment. And California's doing a similar thing. So it's amazing how much the landscape is shifting under our feet. There's a building in New York City not too far from where we are right now that was designed six or seven years ago. And one of the really innovative, cutting edge technologies that they used was to use a gas turbine to produce all of their electricity.
There was a cogen plant, so on the top of the building on the 73rd floor, they've got a gas turbine. And I believe it's also producing domestic hot water for the building's use, which seems, you know, at the time innovative, were going to be more independent. But I can't imagine trying to propose that sort of strategy now. So it's really amazing how much the landscape is shifting under our feet.
00;33;06;14 - 00;33;12;19
So you've been an architect for 30 years. If you could give your younger self some career advice, what would it be?
00;33;12;21 - 00;33;55;23
Knowing what I know now, I wish I would have been more thoughtful about sustainability and how important that is, because I think the decisions that we're making now, we're only really going to see the benefits of that or the implications or the results of that down the road and when I think about how much carbon has been put into the atmosphere since, like I think 1992, I think 50% of the carbon that's in the atmosphere was produced I think since the nineties. So it's not climate change, global warming. It's often thought about as something that's occurred in over a century. And a lot of the legacy emissions were from the beginning of the industrial revolution, but it's really not the case. It's really in this compressed time frame that's in the last 30, 40 or 50 years.
00;33;55;25 - 00;34;02;22
John, it's been great to have you here. Thanks for your time. Where could people go to learn more about Dattner Architects in New York City and yourself?
00;34;02;25 - 00;34;18;20
It's really easy. We've got a website, Dattner.com, I think we have a good representation of our work there. You'll see that all of our work is basically in the city and we can ride the subway to get to our site. So it's a pleasure to have spoken to you today and glad to be able to share some of my experience.
Thank you very much and great to have you here
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