A Sustainability Guide to Hudson Yards

Jeremy Lehrer

Hudson Yards—a brand-new neighborhood with shops, restaurants, a striking performance venue and ample public space—has already become a top destination for visitors and locals. The development, ingeniously built on top of a still-operating rail yard, also includes several innovative sustainability features. Among them: a massive stormwater recycling system, a green space that supports pollinators and a showcase low-impact building. Here’s a roundup.

Top of 20 Hudson Yards. Photo: Francis Dzikowski for Related Oxford

Liquid Assets

Why let precious resources go to waste when they can be used productively? Hudson Yards has installed a smart water-reclamation system that reduces stress on the City’s potable water supply. Rainwater might be considered one of NYC’s greatest underutilized resources. During heavy rainfalls, the water floods city streets and overwhelms infrastructure. Hudson Yards’ developers decided to capture and store that water in a 60,000-gallon tank embedded underneath the urban landscaping, and in several other stormwater collection reservoirs on roofs throughout the complex. One of them is on top of 20 Hudson Yards, which houses The Shops & Restaurants at Hudson Yards—seven floors of retail and dining space. Over the course of a year, these tanks will collect an estimated 10 million gallons of water, which will be used to irrigate the 200 trees and 28,000 plants in the public park and cool mechanical equipment in the complex.

View of Hudson Yards Public Park. Courtesy, Related Companies

It’s a Park Place

The Hudson Yards public park adds green space to an area that was once concrete, iron and weeds—fulfilling an urban sustainability goal. The green space offers a number of advantages beyond the important psychological benefits to people sitting amid the greenery, which they can do along almost a mile of garden-seating walls. In designing the park, landscape architecture firm Nelson Byrd Woltz chose flowers that would attract bees and other pollinators, part of a strategy to support declining bee populations. The perennial blooms, including wild indigo, several types of coneflower (in purple and white), eastern bee balm and various asters, draw “more than 225 types of bees, flies, wasps, butterflies, moths and beetles, and the ruby-throated hummingbird,” according to Related Companies’ spokeswoman Kathleen Corless. The park is also a waystation for migratory birds. The flora moderates temperatures in the area and absorbs rainwater.

10 Hudson Yards. Photo: Steve Freihon for Related Oxford

Sustainable Yardstick

All of the buildings at Hudson Yards have garnered a rating in the LEED system, which assesses the sustainability of architecture based on categories ranging from “water efficiency” to “material and resources.” Most of the buildings have achieved a Gold rating. The standout is 10 Hudson Yards, an office building that scored a Platinum rating, the highest possible. The structure, designed by architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox, accomplishes this through features like a microclimate temperature control system, low-flow fixtures and electric vehicle charging stations. It also got “points” because of the architects’ selection of recycled content and regional materials for construction, as well as their use of low-VOC paints, sealants and flooring.

Cogeneration Plant. Courtesy, Related Companies

New Generation

Hudson Yards has a state-of-the-art cogeneration plant, meaning that energy is produced on-site. The electricity generator is interconnected with a temperature control system that has some novel features: for one, it allows Hudson Yards building staff to transfer thermal energy between buildings using what’s called a thermal loop. And tied into the generator is the mechanism for heating and cooling water. The energy savings of integrating these systems amount to 24,000 metric tons of CO2e, or carbon dioxide equivalent, greenhouse gases; according to Related, that matches the emissions produced annually by 5,100 cars. The “microgrid” also provides Hudson Yards with resilience; if the electricity grid goes down in surrounding areas of NYC, the power would still be on for certain Hudson Yards buildings and systems.