Octagon Apartment Community is the First in New York Powered By Fuel Cell

May 29, 2011

The Octagon is a 500-unit LEED Silver certified apartment building in New York City.

The journey from entrance to a lunatic asylum to LEED Silver certified apartment building is a strange one to make, yet that’s exactly what the Octagon, located on Roosevelt Island in New York City, did. The 500-unit apartment building that was constructed when the old building burned down in 2006 earned this award for its green design and environmentally conscious construction. Not satisfied with this distinction alone, the Octagon has just become the first residential building in the state of New York to be powered by a 400 kW fuel cell.

The fuel cell, created by UTC Power, is a PureCell System Model 400. It is a combined heat and power system that converts natural gas to electricity and heat via a combustion-free, electrochemical process. The fuel cell provides power and heat that meets the majority of the building’s energy demand, and the efficiency it achieves is much higher than the energy received from the power grid. Not only does the fuel cell provide more efficient energy usage, the heat from the process is also used for the building’s space heating and domestic water requirements. With the fuel cell, the Octagon is projected to reduce its carbon emissions by 790 metric tons annually.

“On-site fuel cell technology represents the future of electricity generation in this country,” said Bruce Becker, president of Becker + Becker, the building’s developer and architect in a press release. “Traditionally, large capacity fuel cells are utilized at schools, hospitals, and other energy-intensive facilities, but multifamily residential buildings represent a perfect – heretofore uncultivated – opportunity for fuel cell technology because of their ability to continually utilize the fuel cell’s process heat in the form of hot water and space heating demand.”

The fuel cell arrived this winter and is now operating at full capacity. Photo courtesy of PR Newswire.

The financial support behind this leap to the residential-use of fuel cells was provided by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) in the form of $1.2 million in financial incentives.

“Fuel cells present a promising technology that NYSERDA strongly supports,” said Francis J. Murray Jr., the president and CEO of NYSERDA, in a press release. “I commend The Octagon for the innovative energy and environmental investments throughout its facility for which all residents can be proud, and look forward to partnering on future clean energy projects.”

This new fuel cell is not the only green thing about the Octagon, though. The 500-unit apartment building, which is recognized as a national historic place, has a number of other features that sets it apart from most other apartment buildings. Over 40% of the materials used to construct the Octagon came from recycled sources, including all of the wood floor and stair treads. It also boasts an entertainment center in the lounge built entirely from sunflower seeds, deck chairs made from 100% recycled plastic, and kitchen cabinets made from wheat hulls.

In addition to the fuel cell, the Octagon is also powered by a 50 kW solar panel system that lights the hallways, the largest solar panel array on a residential building in New York City.

SOURCES: PR Newswire, the Octagon

PHOTO SOURCE: the Octagon