Few may have predicted that a plot of land at the intersection of the Carroll Gardens and Gowanus neighborhoods in Brownstone Brooklyn would become a LEED Platinum modern adaptation of the traditional townhouse, but Third + Bond is the central premise of that exact story, the brainchild of the Hudson Companies Incorporated and, more specifically, Alison Novak.
Before Novak came to the Hudson Companies in 2006, the well-established New York development company hadn’t implemented much sustainable design into its residential projects. Novak, an MIT graduate who is now vice president of the company, came from a real-estate-development background where she was taught to look at things holistically, and she says that taking a holistic approach to sustainability seemed within the realm of possibility.
Before pitching the idea of green building to Hudson’s partners, Novak discussed the idea with past employees, attempting to get a feel for whether or not the company would embrace sustainability—what she heard was a resounding yes. “Many of our competitors were already going the sustainable route, and I didn’t want us to get left behind,” Novak says, “but I also understood that after doing jobs the same way for 20 years, taking on something new and unfamiliar could seem daunting. Thankfully we received a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) that enabled us to add a consultant to our development budget. That made all the difference. I didn’t want the partners to think we were going to be installing bicycles to power toasters.”
June 2007 marked a momentous time for Hudson; it purchased the plot of land in Brooklyn, not far from the company’s former office. The project would become Hudson’s first foray into green building and Novak’s baby, featuring 44 residential condominium apartments in eight four-and-a-half-story townhomes.
By the time Third + Bond was completed in January 2011, it was everything Novak and her team could have hoped for, but getting there had its challenges. Not only did city oversight of construction sites become stricter around the time of building, but Hudson began the project during the recession, and selling the units proved to be slow. Not to mention the fact that the entire team, including Novak, was inexperienced when it came to green building. To say it was a learning process would be an understatement.
Location Brooklyn, NY
Size 54,000 sq ft
Program Residential condominiums
Awards Building Brooklyn Award 2012 for Residential Low-Rise
Developer Hudson Companies Incorporated
Architect Rogers Marvel Architects
Landscape Architect The Organic Gardener
General Contractor KSK Construction Group
Certification LEED Platinum
Site Urban area, land previously used
Water Dual-flush toilets, low-flow fixtures
Energy Tight building envelope; efficient lighting; double-pane, low-E windows
Landscape Organic landscaping with native plants
“Everyone did an amazing job, but it definitely wasn’t business as usual,” Novak says. “We had so much to rethink. We’d set a budget for something like insulation based on costs from past projects, just to realize later in the design process that we’d need a far greater budget for far greater insulation. There were some things I didn’t know about at all, and in a lot of ways, we were figuring things out along the way, making sure to leave room for adjustments. Even now that the units are occupied, we are learning about adjustments to make on this and future jobs.”
Each Third + Bond unit has been sold, 80 percent of the units include a private outdoor space, and each building was constructed using a prefabricated steel structural system with concrete floors. The units have individually ducted central air-conditioning, energy recovery ventilators for tempering and filtering fresh air, and a panel façade crafted from locally sourced brick and recycled aluminum. Hudson used low-VOC paints, and FSC-certified solid hardwood flooring, dual-flush toilets, super low-flow lavatories, and drought-tolerant landscaping. As a result, Third + Bond, designed by Rogers Marvel Architects and built by KSK Construction Group, was awarded LEED Platinum certification and an Energy Star label.
Hudson seemed to be on to the Brooklyn boom before it became the hottest borough. Hudson partnered with Brooklyn’s own design school, the Pratt Institute, and employed alumni, students, and faculty to furnish two Third + Bond model residences. The Pratt team customized everything in the space by silk-screening pillows, designing wallpaper, and even including chairs featured in the Museum of Modern Art’s collection. “There was so much talent on display, it was almost ridiculous,” Novak says. “It was like hiring a team of the most talented interior designers, and all of them were committed to sustainability. They put so much heart and soul into this project.”
Hudson even started a guest column on Brownstoner.com, one of New York City’s premier real-estate blogs, so outsiders could get an inside look at the development. For “Inside Third + Bond,” Novak posted behind-the-scenes photos and wrote honestly about the challenges and frustrations that informed each decision made on the project. “This project is a source of pride for Hudson and me,” Novak says. “The response has been great. I even had a tenant tell me that she shows all of her guests her dual-flush toilet. It was sort of unusual, but I loved that she loves it so much.”