A rendering of AeroFarms new facility in Newark at full build-out — Courtesy: U.S. Green Building Council
By Joshua Burd
Ron Beit recalls attending a community design session several years ago in the Ironbound section of Newark, where his firm was soliciting ideas for a vacant industrial building.
Community members were clear that they didn’t want more residential, nor did they want additional retail, he said. They wanted jobs that would help reclaim the commercial and industrial history of the neighborhood.
But there was one catch.
“(They) wanted jobs that didn’t create all of the truck traffic, they wanted jobs that didn’t create the noxious odors,” said Beit, CEO of RBH Group. “We had this really narrow band of industries that we could bring to this community, and so when AeroFarms showed up with this game-changing project, it was not only sustainable from a green standpoint, but really sustainable from a community standpoint.”
Beit, referring to the indoor vertical farming startup that now occupies 212 Rome St. in Newark, recalled the story last week as he accepted an award from the U.S. Green Building Council. At its annual gala, the New Jersey chapter of the nonprofit organization honored the Newark-based developer and AeroFarms for their plan to bring a 69,000-square-foot, environmentally conscious facility to the city, which will ultimately have the capacity to grow up to 2 million pounds of leafy greens and herbs annually, using 95 percent less water and zero pesticides.
David Rosenberg, co-founder and CEO of AeroFarms, said the company is a reflection of innovation along several fronts, from biology to mechanics. But it also needed innovation when it came to the built environment in order to make the model work, he said.
“While we’re fortunate (to be) the world leaders in vertical farming, we needed fantastic leaders in the environmental side,” Rosenberg said. “So we’re proud of our partnership with RBH and the tenacity that Ron brings to, figuratively and literally, bust through walls to make that job happen.”
The project to convert the former steel factory has completed its first phase of construction. Beit called AeroFarms “an amazing game-changing tenant for not only New Jersey, but for the world,” while pointing to the growing role of sustainable design and construction in the real estate industry.
“As a young developer, being green and building green buildings was optional,” Beit said. “But it’s no longer optional. The communities are demanding it. The end users are demanding it and we’ve got to make sure that we continue to push on the innovation espials and make sure that we continue to push the public in this field, because I think we’re just starting to scratch the surface here.”
Along with honoring the AeroFarms project, the USGBC NJ presented five awards and three honorable mentions to sustainably built projects in New Jersey.
The full list and images of the projects are below:
Innovative School Project of the Year: College Avenue Redevelopment Initiative (New Brunswick)
- Recipients: New Brunswick Development Corp. (Devco) and Rutgers University
LEED Innovation Project of the Year (Residential): Suburban Habitat for Humanity (Oradell)
- Recipients: Habitat Bergen, Design Management Services, EAM Associates
LEED Innovation Project of the Year (Interiors): Suez North America New Jersey Headquarters (Paramus)
- Recipient: Suez North America
LEED Innovation Project of the Year (Commercial): Prudential Tower (Newark)
- Recipients: Prudential Financial and SJP Properties
LEED Innovation Project of the Year (Residential Urban): Union Hill Phase I and II
- Recipient: Chartier Group
William Paterson University – University Hall (Wayne)
- Firms recognized: William Paterson University, NK Architects
Bijou Properties – The Vine and Park and Garden (Hoboken)
- Firms recognized: Bijou Properties
Teachers Village (Newark)
- Firms recognized: RBH Group
All images courtesy: U.S. Green Building Council