When real-estate developer Thomas Chartier talks about green building technology, it’s like something out of a sci-fi movie—solar-thermal arrays that turn sunlight into heat, and geothermal systems that pipe coolant 350 feet into the ground.
His newest project, a seven-unit residential building at 118 Madison St., uses some of these advancements to help alleviate city flooding, and even to generate its own electricity.
“Our goal after living through Hurricane Sandy and without power for a week was to make 118 Madison sustainable by reducing the carbon footprint,” he says. “But we also wanted to make it much more resilient.”
Instead of installing a traditional water heater, Chartier chose a machine that creates both heat and power from a single fuel source. Called a combined heat and gas system, the unit burns natural gas to produce hot water and collects the excess heat to create electricity that can be used in a generator.
“Once the water receded, there was the gasoline shortage,” Chartier says of the days after the hurricane. “We never want our residents to have to experience that again.”
Another environmentally friendly system installed at 118 Madison is storm-water retention tanks. These large underground tanks hold and use excess rainwater during storms to do things like flush toilets and water indoor plants.
The retention tanks allow the standing rainwater to be reused, which keeps the water bill down. But, more importantly, the water stays out of the city’s sewer system until the storm passes.
“Because of our city’s outdated infrastructure,” Chartier says, “keeping water out of the sewer systems becomes really important.” By keeping the water bill low, retention tanks usually pay for themselves in under a decade and could “significantly reduce” flooding in the future, Chartier says.
Of the seven condos under construction at 118 Madison, the largest are 2,900 square feet and have a two-car indoor garage, outdoor space, and a green roof. The government program called LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, rated the building as Gold Certified.
Going Green, Saving Green
While all this sounds expensive, Chartier says the cost of the condos is actually very competitive.
“The green bells and whistle don’t add a huge premium,” he says. “I’ve learned where to spend the extra money.”
One way that Chartier can keep the price of new homes down is by making sure the building is completely airtight. By installing exterior insulation and triple-pane windows, he can save money by using smaller and less expensive heating and cooling equipment.
“All this basically shrinks the size of the boiler you need,” he says. “There is a much smaller heating load, but the heat produced is used more effectively.”
In fact, Chartier renovated his home and office on Monroe Street and ended up reducing his heating bill by more than 75 percent. He installed exterior insulation, a state-of- the- art water boiler, and new windows. “I used to pay almost $600 a month,” he says, “now I pay $150.”
Hoboken’s Green Initiative
Chartier, who is a board member of the Hoboken Chamber of Commerce as well as the Hoboken Quality of Life Coalition, hopes that the city will continue to adopt building practices that encourage the use of green technology.
“We’ve had really productive meetings with the mayor to incentivize new green buildings,” he says.
Things like putting in low-flush toilets to conserve water, or ripping up old concrete and replacing it with new pervious materials helps Hoboken’s overburdened infrastructure cope with storm water. “Mainly because the infrastructure is over 100 years old, it’s so important to develop green,” Chartier says.
Planting more trees, building green roofs, and replacing old vegetation can all help to keep Hoboken dry.
“Unfortunately, flooding is near and dear to our hearts,” Chartier says. “But the rainwater retention systems cut water consumption by 40 percent. It takes a lot of pressure off overburdened and old sewer systems.”
The building at 118 Madison St. was slated to open for occupancy by early summer.—07030.
Chartier Redevelopment Group