Derek Hsiang, partner of YD Development, discusses eco-friendly co-living building coming to Manhattan

Eco-friendly features promote sustainable living

Common founder Brad Hargreaves. COMMON

(NEW YORK, NY) — Common, a co-living startup that is revolutionizing communal living, is coming to Hell’s Kitchen. With 10 current locations in Brooklyn and Queens, this building will be the company’s first property in Manhattan.

But there’s more to this project—something beyond high-end perks, and a tight-knit community. Common has partnered with YD Development to not only bring co-living to the West Side, but add the first eco-friendly building to its portfolio.

The project comes at a time when New York City is desperately trying to reduce its carbon footprint, looking at large buildings to cut energy usage and warning New Yorkers that careless usage will lead to a grim future.

The redevelopment of 424 W 47th St. will add eco-friendly features such as motion sensor lights, water-saving shower heads, a green roof, smart thermostats, and dual-flush toilets to the building.

By installing eco-friendly features, Common and YD Development are making the first steps to sustainable living easier for residents. Both companies are confident that with the right tools, residents will be able to make eco-friendly decisions conveniently while encouraging peers to do so as well.

Derek Hsiang, YD Development.

We spoke with Derek Hsiang,  partner of YD Development, to get his take on a project that’s at the forefront of sustainable living in New York City.

1) Tell us a bit about your background and why you decided to work on this project.

My background is all over the place so I’ll just say I worked for a developer for 5 years. After seeing an entire ground-up development cycle, I decided to start my own development company with my partner, Yoori Oh. I had also done some consulting for Common Living, and Yoori and I instantly recognized 424 W 47 as a viable co-living building.

2) What are a few standout eco-friendly features coming to the co-living space that aren’t typically found in other NYC buildings?

The most salient feature is that we are probably the first building in Hell’s kitchen to have solar panels. We’re smack in the middle of the Special Clinton District which has a 65 ft height restriction, meaning no shadows! It took some research and quite a few calls to figure out what was allowed, and Brooklyn Solar Works provided a solution that got around FDNY’s regulations by bringing the solar panels up 9 feet above the roof on a canopy.

3) NYC is fighting to cut CO2 emissions. Will this project serve as a model for other co-living developments?

I hope so. We’re trying something new by encouraging active green behavior in a co-living community. We’ll have to evaluate and iterate as we find out what’s working and what’s not, and I’m hoping other developers can learn from these practices and improve on it. I’ll definitely be sharing our findings as time goes on.

4) What are some of the most common ways residential buildings overuse energy? How will your building prevent “super users?”

Heating and cooling is by far the biggest contributor to the footprint, followed by running the washer/dryer and the dishwasher more often than needed (i.e. when they’re not full). Lights and electronics start to play a factor if they’re constantly left on all day/night.

But wasteful behavior can completely eclipse the benefits of eco-friendly features, and there are cases of residents in green buildings that end up having higher utility bills because they think all their energy is free.

Wasteful behavior stems from previous living situations and upbringing. And education on sustainable practices plays a huge factor. Living with people who lack awareness and don’t practice sustainability will naturally lead to spreading that kind of behavior.

5) In your article, you mentioned features such as a green roof, motion sensor lights, High Sierra shower heads, and smart thermostats. What are some of the less visible features that will help make this building stand out in the fight for a greener city?

A couple of the less visible things are actually behavioral and going on right now. Our entire construction team has been educated on how to sort their trash and recycling in the building (NYC does not offer single-stream recycling and most people don’t know all the sorting rules). We’ve recycled a significant portion of metal, old stoves, and given away or sold reusable materials. And our construction equipment will be completely powered by solar once the system is turned on.

The less sexy invisible features are mostly related to insulation- heat loss is one of the largest culprits for high energy bills.

6) If more developments follow in the project’s footsteps, the city’s carbon footprint could drastically decrease. Along with improving the environment, what are some other benefits of investing in eco-friendly features?

The financial component is always a consideration. All of the green features we chose offer a positive return, but not every developer has the same timeline to reap those returns if they’re looking for a quick flip.

We also put a lot of thought into balancing sustainability with ergonomic convenience. For example, motion sensor lighting can be annoying if misplaced, but we feel we’ve put them in spots where they would need to be turned on in 100% of the cases when people walk under them. So removing the switch adds a little bit of convenience. Small details like these can make tenants want to stay longer when you add them up.

Another example is that the solar canopy creates an amazing shaded hangout spot.

7) What types of reactions have you received thus far regarding the project? (From other developers and/or potential residents)

We actually didn’t tell people who visited the building that the solar canopy was up until they went to the roof, and they loved that surprise. It’s a bit too early to get feedback from potential residents though. A lot of people are excited to learn about co-living as well.

8) The future of co-living in NYC is looking pretty sweet. Along with the eco-friendly features, what will make this location stand out among the rest?

The fact that we’re in the heart of Manhattan is a stand-out feature in itself. Hell’s Kitchen has so much character and is a great place to live. But within the building, I hope we’re creating an overall living experience that people love to be a part of.

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