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Audubon building flies as energy-efficient wonder.

Take lots of wool and oold newspapers and add used jute bags and light bulb byproducts.

Instead of creating more landfill, the architects at Croxton Collaboratives, with the blessing of the members of the Audubon Society, mixed these ingredients together in a 100-year old empty building to create the world's first energy efficient recycled corporate headquarters.

The complete renovation of the former Schermerhorn Building, located in Noho at the corner of Broadway and Fourth Street, was officially dedicated as Audubon House last month.

A ribbon cutting ceremony was attended by New York City's Deputy Mayor Barbara Fife, Lieutenant Governor Stan Lundine, State Environmental Conservation Commissioner Thomas C. Jorling; State Energy Commissioner Francis J. Murray Jr. and Assistant Secretary to the Governor for Energy and Environment Joseph Martens.

Lundine, standing in for Governor Mario Cuomo who had been injured playing basketball the night before, said, "This is a magnificent building and shows what can be donein an urban environment."

Not only is it environmentally conscious, but can meet the cost competition, he added.

Audubon president Peter A. A. Berle said they set out to use less than one-half the energy annd under the guidance of Randolf Croxton, president of Croxton Collaboratives, looked to surpass the building code standard, rather than meet it. "If we can do it in New York, we can do it anywhere," he noted.

Croxton said the market rate building had costs redistributed from things like marble and brass to the environmental systems to enhance the corporations' best asset -- it's people. Building codes, he said, should not define the worst case but encourage and support the best case. "Green or environmental architecture," Croxton contined, will soon become the new standard for architecture.

Audubon put between 1 percent and 2 percent of the $14 million budget into research on environmentally safe and efficient products, explained Jan Beyea, the Society's chief scientist. Products were purchased off-the-shelf so that other builders can use these materialls and methods.

Purchasing guidelines were also carried through to office supplies and provide for a 10 percent overage cap so that "green" is balanced with cost.

City purchasing guidelines have a high emphasis on recycled products, noting the mayor is an enthusiastic supporter of the Audobon project. Saving 120 jobs, the Audobon Society has a home that is a model for all of us to emulate, she said, adding that she hoped in the future that all office buildings will be remodeled with these techniques.

"We will be watching how this building operates," she said, with an eye on the "much maligned building codes."

Referring to the problems the Housing Authority is having implementing its recycling program because of storage space, Fife said. "we don't want anything like that to happen again."

Fife indicated in her remarks that the city is going to be looking at some of the code standards with an eye on including concerns other than those generated by fire and safety issues. "They didn't say the code is wrong," she noted llater, "they just said it should go further."

The eight-story Audobon renovation, instaled by A-J Contracting, will have a pay back period of between three and five years, with the windows taking the longest. Total energy consumption will be lowered by more than 60 percent and lighting energy by 80 percent. The purchase and construction were financed by $20 million from the Industrial Development Agency.

Using "daylighting" techniques, the bright, cheerful building, with an interior of grey and tan earth tones, was designated to be user-friendly and keep employees happy at the same time serving as an example of what is technologically feasible in the building industry today. Indeed, as products were choses several years ago, some such as the windows have since been refined to even greater standards.

All the materials used in the renovation were selected to minimize the effects of indoor air pollution and sick building syndrome. "It's easy to quantify the energy savings, which comes to over $100,000 per year," said Kirsten Childs, director of interior design with Croxton Collaboratives. But the saving in personnel is hard to quantify, she said.

Beyea said the increase in employee morale and decrease in lost sick time adds to its cost effectiveness. Indeed, with smoking banned from the building, 6.2 changes of air per minute and all products thoroughly researched to be formaldehyde, CFC and smell free, an odor intolerant visitor was able to discern merely a hint of perfumes and deodorants used by employees and the gathered press and officials.

Childs said after researching products to ensure they met Audubon's rigid specifications, the qualifying companies bid on the job.

A subfloor made by Homasote from recycled New Jersey newspaper was used to even out the original worn hardwood floors and provided insulating and sound proofing as well. This was covered by carpet mats made by Dixie Manufacturing out of jute bags formerly used to store coffee beans.

The earthtone rugs from Desso are pure wool with no formaldehydes. Even the Glidden paint was petroleum solvent free and an area painted the day before emitted no odor.

Glass byproducts of the Sylvania light bulb manufacturing process are powdered and pressed with clay into Prominence floor tiles that were used for elevator landings. A patented air and mineral foram insulation called Air Krete, manufactured by Palmer Industries, was used a insulation. Special heat mirror windows from Southwall Technologies reflect heat inside in the winter and keep it out in the summer.

Large and, for the most part, arched windows that face southwest together with open floor plans combined with glass walled outer rings offices help the building maintain light all day long. As the light dims or increases, sensors alter the amount of light being emitted from energy efficient Sylvania Octron system lamps and florescent fixtures. Skylights opening into a two-story atrium staircase enhance the effect.

Additionally, stairways were made between every two floors to discourage the use of the elevators by employees.

The engineers had originally determined the building needed a 360 ton chiller. After calculating the efficiency gains from the insulation, glass and sensors, that was reduced to a gas-fired 180 ton lithium bromide absorption system.

"The only CFC's in the building are in the kitchen refrigerator," said Childs.

The small kitchens that serve Audubon's staff are equipped with recycling chutes that go straight to the basement collection point. There is a place for a magazine exchange as well as shelves for newspaper collection. In studies before the building was designed, they found 80 percent of the waste was paper and hope to recycle more than 42 tons of paper per year. Additionally, organic waste will probably be composted in the basement and used for rood top gardens.

Herman Miller supplied the office furniture while a conference room table was made from hardwood grown in special rain forest farms approved by the Rainforest Alliance.

A "how to" guide and educational video are available from Audubon by calling (212)979-3026.
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Title Annotation:National Audubon Society's New York, New York headquarters renovated, seen as model of environmental engineering
Author:Weiss, Lois
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Mar 3, 1993
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