Christopher Albanese, President of the Albanese Organization, visited the Baker Program in Real Estate last week to offer insights to students and faculty by way of the Distinguished Speaker Series. During his time at the Albanese Organization, Albanese has been instrumental in pushing the company toward its current focus on green development. Since its establishment, the Albanese Organization has built and/or renovated over five million square feet of real estate in the New York metropolitan area.
Unlike the company’s co-founders, Anthony and Vincent Albanese, Christopher and Russell Albanese, sons of the co-founders, have continuously emphasized the importance of green development, focusing on projects that are energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. This dates back to their bid to the Batter Park City Authority in 1998 to build the the Solaire, the first LEED Gold high-rise residential tower in the United States. “Green buildings are better buildings,” said Albanese. “In the long run, we get higher rents and the buildings have higher value. It’s hard to quantify the return on cost, but better-designed and finished buildings have outperformed our competitors, especially in down markets. In an up market, everyone does well, but in a down market, the worse buildings and worse projects get weeded out, and ultimately many of them fail.”
Albanese attributes the higher rents and stronger occupancy rates of the green projects to their superior designs and features that capture the attention of the tenants. “The indoor air quality in our buildings is superior to the outdoor air quality of Manhattan… and the residents appreciate that. The buildings have less VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), whether it’s carpeting or cabinets or adhesives. We choose materials and paints that have very little or no VOCs.”
Since the company’s first green project, the Albanese Organization has outdone itself by creating New York City’s first and only LEED Platinum condominium building, the Visionaire, in 2008. “In that building, we not only brought fresh air into every apartment but every room… And keep in mind that in the wintertime and summertime in New York, people don’t open their windows so bringing in fresh air to every room was a great feature and that was appreciated and noticed.” In addition to many of the features one would expect from a green building, the Visionaire has several innovative features that led to it earning several awards. “We have blackwater treatment plants- all the water goes into the basement where it’s treated and reused for our cooling tower, irrigation, and toilet water. So the toilets are actually piped separately, which is expensive but saves a lot of water. We also have a small cogeneration plant that creates electricity from gas. Generally we can’t produce electricity cheaper than Con Edison, but the exhaust heat from that generator is captured and used to heat the hot water. For the breaks on the elevators, we capture that energy and [put it back] into the system.”
Going forward, Albanese sees his firm maintaining its current size and continuing to steadily add two to four projects to its focus each year. “When I joined the firm, we were about ten employees. Now we are about forty to fifty. I don’t see us continuing that type of expansion. We’re an excellent size right now [as a] mid-to-large sized developer. I just want to keep on doing the kind of successful projects we’ve been doing. When I started at the firm, it was generally a project a year. Now we generally are involved in two, three, or four projects per year, which is manageable. I want to just continue to develop great projects- great buildings.”
Albanese provided many takeaways and insights about the future and strategy behind green development, and the students and faculty of the Baker Program look forward to learning more key lessons from the next industry leader in the Distinguished Speaker Series.