The Solaire: gold at being green

The Solaire in Manhattan’s Battery Park City, completed in 2003, was the first “green” residential high-rise in the U.S. It’s gold-level certification from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is owed in part to its cladding of red brick which contributed to the building’s LEED score as both a regional material and one with recycled content. The structure was honored by the American Institute of Architects as a 2004 Top Ten winner.

Recognized broadly as a huge leap forward in residential environmentally-advanced design, the Solaire’s success isn’t due solely to its accumulation of points in a rating system. Ultimately, the structure needed to succeed both technically and aesthetically. Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects skillfully integrated glass and photovoltaic solar panels with the Mountain Shadow Norman brick from Sioux City Brick. Clay brick has always played well with glass in urban high-rise environments, but the iridescent blue of the photovoltaic cells lends a surprise visual effect, reflecting shimmering light like the adjacent Hudson River while lending the impression of mosaic tile.

In order to achieve the building’s 35% energy savings, designers did a deep dive into the traditional masonry wall section to maintain its performance while weaving together the glass and solar cells with the brick cladding. The heating and cooling benefits of brick’s high thermal mass were buttressed by a more thorough understanding of traditional wall systems’ air infiltration rates than had existed previously, thanks to new technological applications.

And, while beauty and energy efficiency were obvious project successes, the structure’s life cycle was also a significant consideration for designers. Thanks to its flexible layout and durable materials, like clay brick, developers anticipate a service life for the building of 75-100 years - a major benefit in a market where residential buildings that are often 70 - 80 years old remain highly desirable.

Mountain Shadow Norman brick manufactured by Sioux City Brick was selected for the project. The brick was supplied by Consolidated Brick. For a full description of the project from the American Institute of Architects, click here.