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Housing complex under construction in Manhattan boasts high-tech accoutrements
By Alex Ulam

Image: Courtesy Posro Media

Affordable housing complexes aren’t usually showcases for new building technologies, but 1400 on Fifth, a moderate-income condominium development under construction in New York City’s Harlem, will be one of the city’s most high-tech residences, boasting both an advanced internal IT system as well as several green-building features.

The building, which will be eight stories tall with 128 condominium units, will be equipped with its own Internet service provider via a 45-megabyte fiber-optic connection. It will also broadcast a special wireless “mesh” network throughout the immediate neighborhood, making an extremely high-speed broadband service available for a fee to local residents and merchants, with the funds going to the building’s condominium association. Its Internet connection will be powerful enough to substitute for traditional telephone and cable TV services, says Carlton Brown, chief operating officer of Full Spectrum, the development company in charge of the project. “If someone in this building decided, ‘I don’t want to use Time Warner Cable, I don’t want to use Verizon,’ ” he says, “they could get all of those [services] over the one cable we bring in.” The service will provide residents with a host of capabilities such as video conferencing, Internet-based telephone service (voice-over IP), real-time video on demand, and a Web-based security system that allows residents to monitor common spaces in the building from their computer screens. He estimates these services will cost between $7 and $25 per month per unit, as the owners will buy broadband service at a bulk rate for the building’s fiber-optic backbone.


The digital network at 1400 on Fifth was designed by HP under the company’s i-building initiative, which has developed leading-edge technology for multitenant buildings such as hotels, apartment complexes, and college campuses. 1400 on Fifth is the most sophisticated project to date in this program.

The building was designed by Roberta Washington Architects and P.A. Collins Engineers to be 35 percent more energy-efficient than required by city codes, garnering it the 2003 Energy Project of the Year Award from the New York chapter of the Association of Energy Engineers. Many of the green features in the building are rarely used in New York City or in apartment buildings at all, says Fredric Goldner, president of the International Association of Energy Engineers. Among the development’s most noteworthy features, he says, is a geothermal heating and cooling system that cycles water deep into the bedrock below Manhattan and through the building’s HVAC system, eliminating the need for traditional gas heating or air-conditioning. Another is the steel superstructure with panelized walls and low-e windows that together are expected to reduce air infiltration by 85 percent compared to traditional block-and-brick construction. “Smart” electrical outlets will also help residents monitor their own energy use. “You can go to your computer and it can tell you how much electricity you are using, the rate you are using it at, and what the energy costs are per unit,” Brown says.

The development cost about $200 per square foot, which is on par with other affordable housing going up throughout New York. “The notion that we are exploring with this project,” Brown says, “is that you can build green at about the same cost to build otherwise, if you are just a little bit more thoughtful about what you do.”

As a small development company working in transitional neighborhoods, Brown says Full Spectrum has an extra incentive to develop high-tech buildings. “We’re a newcomer, we don’t have name recognition,” he says. “So what we do is focus on what will make emerging markets stronger and make us grow stronger with them.”

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