Sustainable Design in Jersey City

54 Bright Street | via Jersey Digs

Sustainable features such as green roofs help reduce the heat island effect, energy usage and global warming.  According to scientists, the most important climate influences caused by human activity are the emission of greenhouse gases (IPCC Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis) and changes in land use, such as urbanization and agriculture (Pielke, R.A. et al. 2002).  While much of the media attention focuses on greenhouse gas emissions, there is less attention on land-use change as a cause of global warming.  Anyone who lives in the New York Metropolitan area is familiar with the heat-island effect.  It is not unusual for the temperatures to be up to 10 degrees F warmer in the City.  According to the USEPA, when open land is replaced by concrete buildings and paved surfaces, the sun can heat these dry, exposed urban surfaces, such as roofs and pavement, to temperatures that are much hotter than moist, pervious, vegetated surfaces.   This leads to the heat island effect.

According to the US Green Building Council, there are three approaches to reducing the heat island effect (and also reducing your energy bills):

  1. Use roofing materials with a high solar reflectance rating,
  2. Install a vegetated green roof, or
  3. A combination of both

In my opinion, using highly reflective materials in a city should be used with caution.  Such surfaces may simply reflect the heat and glare onto the adjacent building so be sure to consider this before selecting the first option.

Here in Jersey City we have begun to see developers who are including sustainable design components such as green roofs to help mitigate the heat island effect, while also sequestering storm water, and reducing energy costs.  At 54 Bright Street (pictured above) Jorge Mastropietro Atelier used passive design techniques to improve indoor air quality and reduce temperature fluctuations making it more enjoyable to live in.  In addition, this development includes a green roof and the first living green-wall mural in Jersey City.  These sustainable features help reduce the heat island effect, energy usage and global warming.  Hopefully, this will be the first of many sustainable homes!