Spring ’09 Tour Recap: Brooklyn Green Buildings by bike

GreenHomeNYC’s Spring 2009 Green Buildings open house tours took place in early May, by bus and bike in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. Thanks to GreenHome volunteer Jordan Bonomo for this description and photos of the day —

Our tour begins outside the Eco Brooklyn Show House
Our tour begins outside the Eco Brooklyn Show House

Last Saturday our carbon neutral Brooklyn Bike Tour hit the pavement as we visited four green buildings and one community garden around the Park Slope and Carol Gardens neighborhood. While gray skies turned blue, our minds went green as we started at the Eco Brooklyn Show House guided by our gracious and knowledgeable host Gennaro. The Show House is a complete gut renovation of a classic brownstone, originally constructed in 1907. Gennaro, and Eco Brooklyn seek a similar longevity in their renovation by following an innovative motto: “Build It Forward.”

Read on after the jump!

As Gennaro explained to  our group of architects, engineers, developers, and green minded bikers, “build it forward” is a concept of development that considers the future environmental and ecological impacts of each decision that goes into the development project; construction, systems, and materials. This practice requires intimate knowledge of many aspects of development such as where materials come from, how long the materials will last, and how they can be reused by future building inhabitants. 

Piping used for radiant floor heating system at Eco Brooklyn Show House
Piping used for radiant floor heating system at Eco Brooklyn Show House

The Show House, Gennaro explained, is being constructed of almost entirely reclaimed materials: wood flooring, sheet glass, and even a reclaimed fire escape that has been installed as an indoor balcony. We also glimpsed some innovative methods of radiant floor heating and pipe insulation that demonstrated a unique trial and error method that has defined much of the building’s development.

Gennaro explains the idea of Building it Forward
Gennaro explains the idea of "Building it Forward"
Serena Losonczy addresses the group outside Poly Prep
Serena Losonczy addresses the group outside Poly Prep

From The Eco Brooklyn Show House the group biked across town to the Poly Prep Lower School where we were met by Julie Janiski and Serena Losonczy, two of the school’s developers from Platt Byard Dovell White Architects LLP as well as Launa Schweizer from the Poly Prep faculty. The three took us through the recently renovated school which is situated in the Henry Hulbert mansion in historic Park Slope. We learned that the mansion, built in the 1890s, was purchased for the school a hundred years later for a million dollars. After initial renovations to the original structure, the school hired Dovell White to build an addition. Ms. Janiski and Ms. Losonczy explained that they decided to make it a LEED building, the firm’s first, despite the fast track development needs. Being the firm’s first LEED attempt there were many lesson’s learned that our guides pointed out, lack of light sensors left some CFL fixtures competing with the midday sun, however they were very proud of the final product which was the first LEED certified school in NYC. The most impressive aspect I noticed was the tremendous amount of natural light they were able to bring into each classroom. The whole atmosphere of the building was very bright, great for learning. We also saw extensive use of bamboo and a demand controlled ventilation system in the gymnasium (along with an oddly placed shower!). Outside the building there was ample space left for bikes, playgrounds, trees and bushes.

Our next stop was lunch which, we took at the Park Slope Community Garden’s annual Spring Celebration on 15th st and 6th ave. We ate delicious mushroom-walnut pate sandwiches surrounded by blossoming plants and solar powered water pumps. Big thank you to Tracy Fitz for having us over for lunch!

Serena Losonczy addresses the group outside Poly Prep
Spiro talks about the Green on Dean efficiencies

Feeling refueled, we headed over to Dean St. to check out the newly built Green on Dean Condo development. There, we were met by Spiro, the head of Trident Developers LLC who was eager to show us his first green project. Green on Dean showed the group that you can have the high end luxury feel without the negative environmental footprint. Energy saving was a big focus for Spiro who pointed out the full use of Energy Star appliances, on demand tankless hot water heaters, low flow water fixtures, and energy recovery ventilators that are in each apartment. Spiro also took us up to the roof which will be a 1,000 square foot green roof using removable planting squares. Spiro explained that the overall cost of construction was roughly 5% higher than his non-green constructions but believes that the time is right for buyers to start investing and spending a little extra for more sustainable living.

Erik on the Third and Bond Construction site
Erik on the Third and Bond construction site

The last stop on our tour was a construction site on Third and Bond. We were led by our own Alison Novak of Rogers Marvel Architects who proudly declared that she had convinced her firm to go green on this project for their first time. Just uphill from the Gowanus Canal, the new townhouse will consist of 44 luxury residential condominiums that Alison explained will meet LEED Gold and Energy Star Homes standards. The concrete used has been made with fly ash, the steel also contains recycled content, and the walls have been produced using a locally developed panelized superstructure which, Alison explained, cuts down on waste. Like Green on Dean, the developers of Third and Bond hope to attract young families willing to spend a little extra on a healthy environment.

A big thank you to all who came on the Bike tour and all the wonderful guides!

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