Larry Shows Up Sasha Cohen

More good news for Larry Silverstein which coincidentally—we are sure—occurred less than a week before negotiations over his future role at Ground Zero conclude. His 52-story 7 World Trade Center earned the Gold LEED certification by the U.S. Green Buildings Council today, which means that it uses less energy than conventional buildings, provides cleaner air, and other good stuff.

There are four levels of this LEED system, and Silverstein never said that he was going for anything more than one of the two lowest: basic certification or silver certification. So the gold rating was a bit of a surprise—or maybe not.

“What we’ve found is that developers, especially developers of spec properties, under-promise,” Brendan Owens, director of LEED Design and Construction at the U.S.G.B.C., told us at the press conference today. Among the final deciding factors that pushed the building to the next level was the little triangular park to the east, a feature that Silverstein likes to point to as evidence both of his profligacy and his advanced age. Younger and greedier developers, he has suggested, would just throw up some condos there and make a few million bucks.

At the press conference, Silverstein said that future buildings at Ground Zero (presuming he would build them) would also meet or exceed gold, which is quite a statement. The draft guidelines for the World Trade Center site issued by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation–and my goodness, they better get finalized soon because something might actually get built there before too long–only call for the silver rating, and then only the equivalent of silver rating, which means that one does not have to actually pay the U.S.G.B.C. application fee.

But while Silverstein earned the first-ever LEED medal for an office building in New York City, his came under the somewhat laxer “core and shell” requirements for spec buildings—buildings without one primary tenant, in which the developer does not have control over energy-saving features of the interior build-out. The Lord Norman Foster-designed Hearst Tower will be completed in a few months and is expected to receive a gold (or does that mean platinum?) certification for an owner-occupied building. Then, in 2008, 1 Bryant Park, the Bank of America tower, is expected to meet the core-and-shell platinum standard. And by platinum, we think the builder, the Durst Organization, really means platinum, since that is as high as anyone can go.

-Matthew Schuerman