Are Green Buildings the New Central Air?

At a breakfast forum this morning hosted by the Alliance for Downtown New York and the Downtown Lower Manhattan Association this morning, panelists from city government and the real estate industry professed their undying love for environmentally friendly buildings, saying both landlords and tenants should jump on the sustainability train before it leaves the station.

One interesting tidbit: the Bloomberg administration’s guru of all things green, Rohit Aggarwala, who led the mayor’s PlaNYC sustainability plan, likened today’s climate to one a few decades earlier, relaying a story told to him by developer Douglas Durst:

"When his father was building some of the first central air-conditioned buildings in New York City a generation or two generations ago, people asked him people asked him, ‘Why are you doing that? It’s a bit of a frill.’ … Those people, who at that time in the 1950′s were still building non-centrally air-conditioned buildings, found that five years later, they had Class B office space, because while the market had not demanded it yet, it very quickly moved to demand it.

"I think with the momentum we’ve got around green buildings, that that is the situation we find ourselves in … we face a tipping point, where people start assuming that you’re going to be green; and it’s not going to be a price premium you get for being green, it’s going to be a price penalty for not."

Attendees of the breakfast, held on the naturally-lit 45th-floor of Larry Silverstein’s 7 World Trade Center, also heard from the director of building services of the New York Mercantile Exchange, Elliot Zuckerman, who urged construction of buildings to LEED standards as both a health and a cost-saving tool.

"It is very time-consuming, it is very costly, but quite frankly, it is worth every single penny and every single ounce of energy you can put into it," he said.