Perdita Flats

Perdita Flats received a $70,000 grant from NYSERDA and will be built on Fair Street. (Photo provided)

As many residents express concern over whether city officials are taking the passage of the Green New Deal seriously, local developers have taken matters into their own hands. The development known as Perdita Flats, a small net-zero house project, has been awarded $70,560 from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) Building for Excellence competition. 

Perdita Flats will be developed at 224 Fair Street with designs done by the STREAM Collaborative, and “net-zero” means that it will produce as much energy through renewable resources as it consumes. The project will include four units of market-rate apartment housing over 4,700 sq. ft. Owners Courtney Royal and Umit Sirt are looking to begin development in Dec. 2019 with construction completed in Aug. 2020. The funds from the competition grant will help offset the additional advanced design team fees and further fund the energy technologies used in the project.

Unlike most projects, this development didn’t raise many flags for the members of the Planning Board and sailed through the site plan review process with ease. Royal and Sirt said the building is about more than just achieving net-zero emissions: they want it to stand as a testament to how developers can make energy-efficient structures using affordable construction techniques. 

“Another goal we have is to do this by minimizing and/or eliminating widely used refrigerants, which also have a high global warming potential [GWP] impact,” Royal and Sirt said. “The majority of the air-source or ground-source heat pumps in the market have refrigerants with a huge GWP impact on earth due to refrigerant leakage. In Perdita Flats, we tried hard to avoid those refrigerant heat pumps and instead we used air-source heat pumps that have natural fluid refrigerant that has no or very small GWP impact.” 

Since the upstate energy grid is cleaner than most, Royal and Sirt are looking at developing the building to strictly use electricity since it can be gathered by reusable means. The building’s design will also contribute to its energy efficiency. According to Royal and Sirt, a square is one of the most energy-efficient geometric shapes in development. They also plan on using triple pane argon-filled windows, an air sealing strategy to lower infiltration, reflective interior room colors to sustain daylighting in all the rooms, ground source heat pumps, and much more.  

“This sort of high-performing building project should not be treated as a typical design and construction,” Royal and Sirt said. “There are many design and construction challenges that need to be talked as soon as possible to minimize the potential upcoming issues, and/or avoid deflecting from the original goal—zero energy. The integrated design approach, which is to include all the disciplines, such as the owner, architect, mechanical engineer and construction manager on the table as early as possible, is a good solution in order to keep the target in place and keeping an eye on the budget at the same time.”

One of the key obstacles to overcome, according to Royal and Sirt, is the unfamiliarity of the design team with the sustainable technologies they’re interested in using. This will require a lot of communication between the design team and the manufacturer representative. It could also mean creating additional iterations of the design. 

Matt Cooper is a project manager for STREAM Collaborative, who has been working with Royal and Sirt. Cooper said the building’s mechanical systems will be highly efficient as well in an attempt to reduce the necessary load of equipment for the building. Heating and cooling demands of the building are going to be reduced as well; generally speaking Cooper is excited to work on this kind of development as this is what STREAM has been looking to do with a lot more of the developments they design.

“All of our projects share the same general goals for sustainability that are embedded in Perdita Flats, so in that respect, the answer is more that we will work on projects like this one,” Cooper said. “Programmatically speaking, this building fits within our ideas for site-sensitive and architecturally sound projects that respect not only the needs of the occupants but also the expectations for the neighborhood.”

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