On Eco Brooklyn job sites we employ innovative green building concepts, which are based on Eco Brooklyn’s core values. They are:
Triple Bottom Line
The triple bottom line guides our company’s daily decisions. Do our actions benefit People, Planet and Profit? We expand and contract the scale depending on the situation and make the focus global or very localized to one job situation. Basically does it help the people involved, the planet and does it make profit (or savings) for the people involved (workers, clients, neighbors, people in China etc).
Build It Forward
We have been given a gift by the builders who originally built the buildings of New York. Our job as green builders is to be custodians of those buildings and build them forward, meaning we renovate so that our work is a gift to future generations. We build with longevity and integrity – we add value and store that value in the building.
Zero Building describes a structure that has been renovated in accordance with principles of low waste, low consumption and low energy usage.
During the deconstruction phase (aka demo phase) zero waste is generated. All “waste” is salvaged and organized so that it can be reused onsite or on another job. During the rebuilding phase no new materials are bought – everything we put back into the brownstone is salvaged or recycled. The final brownstone uses zero energy – it is built to consume limited energy and the energy it needs is produced on-site.
The brownstone is also designed to create zero waste by reusing gray water, composting food scraps and composting toilet waste.
The City Provides
This concept plays on the idea of abundance. The city has everything we need via dumpsters, other job sites, craigslist, and throwaways. We treat the city as our big momma who provides us with everything we need to turn it green. When we need something instead of presuming our only resource is a store we presume the resources are just around the corner.
The director of corporate sales at Lowes is a business friend of ours. But he jokes that Eco Brooklyn is his worst client because we buy so little from him. And we are. We are determined to minimize what we buy new.
Harvest the City
Along the same lines as The City Provides, Harvest the City revives the idea of old fashioned harvesting of nature. It helps us see the city as a biological entity rather than a dead layer of concrete and steel. The city is our field from which we harvest resources – again from other dismantled buildings, dumpsters etc. The city is also under our custodianship so that it continues to provide a bountiful harvest – we manage the resources intelligently and share then with others so they are maximized.
The Gotham Forest is the millions of board feet of timber sequestered away in buildings throughout the city. About a hundred years ago, forests of old growth trees were cut down to build New York. This ancient wood sits in our buildings ready to be reused. Each time we dismantle a building or upgrade it, this amazing wood can be accessed.
As a result Eco Brooklyn has yet to buy new wood – no new flooring, studs, joists or molding. We primarily build with wood because metal is harder to salvage.
Guerrilla Green Building
Eco Brooklyn is not the largest contractor in NY but we are definitely the greenest. We are small and agile and seeking a better way to build. Driven by strong political and idealistic values we often find ourselves “bucking the system” of traditional construction, which we see causes a lot of environmental harm.
Through dumpster diving, refusal to buy into green building consumerist products, obsession with local salvaged materials, and many other non-mainstream activities we a little renegade.
We believe in the city’s building codes. Unfortunately building codes don’t always evolve quickly enough, and currently support many wasteful building practices. Taking the concept of guerrilla green building a step further, we utilize techniques that have not been fully accepted by the Department of Buildings. These include gray water, composting toilets, repurposing salvaged wood for new structural beams and opting for super-insulation instead of heating.
We classify these acts as civil disobedience. An inspector could fail our job site and make us undo the work. Other times we may decide we are not up for the fight and hide the work from the city; we may install a gray water system after the inspector has looked at the plumbing. We don’t hide it proudly but as a pragmatic approach to get the system installed with the hope that one day it will be accepted and encouraged by the city. We try to avoid civil disobedience and instead approach the city to share new building technologies and reasons to incorporate them into building codes.
Ultimately we are guided by what is best for the city long term.
Turn NY Green
“Turn NY Green” is the daily ongoing goal of Eco Brooklyn. We are called Eco Brooklyn to specify our geographic focus. We typically work in Brooklyn and Manhattan, leaving the other microclimates for other green builders to master. Anything larger than Brooklyn and Manhattan is a different community with different needs and techniques. We avoid the one size fits all mentality, which is another cause of ecological and cultural destruction.