“Building Forward” is a concept I coined to define Eco Brooklyn’s building philosophy. Eco Brooklyn is a green building company. That is a given. But as I renovate these hundred year old Brownstones in Brooklyn I communicate with the artisans who labored over them a hundred years ago and I realize how much they have given me.
Like voices from the past the workmanship in the houses speaks to us. The old joists with a hundred years of dust and hammer marks from somebody long dead, the stair stringers with hand made nails holding them together, the plaster lath that was applied with hands now a century old.
Their hard work is still here supporting my building and making my job easier. They built it forward.
Their extra care, their use of extra fine materials, their long lasting techniques, all these things created a house that did not need any real work for over a hundred years. For an entire century people living in that house did not have to rebuild and could spend their time and money on other things.
The workers not only built for their generation but they put in an extra bit of money, time and effort to build for several generations ahead of them. That is building forward.
In essence they said, “Relax, we’ll take care of your house for the next hundred years.” And they embodied the house with enough strength to do that. They infused the house with good work and longevity to the point where I can still feel their embodied energy a hundred years later as I open up the walls and see silent acts of building that held the house together behind the seams.
This is building it forward. And now I am rebuilding the house.
I am building for the tenants who will move in and enjoy the new coats of paint and shinny floors. I am building for the next generation who has forgotten me but still will appreciate the good design and strong house bones. I am building for the generation after that who may not even realize the age of the house because it does not ask for any repairs. And the next generation who admires the old house’s strength and appreciates not having to spend a lot of money to update it. And the generation after that…
Eco Brooklyn is building for all of these generations who I will never meet but will speak to them through the house. We are building forward. We are depositing money into the bank account of time for future generations to draw from. With each nail we give a little to the future so that they don’t have to buy a nail. With each strong beam we save them expense 90 years from now when they don’t have to replace it.
This is building it forward. Does it cost me more? That depends how you look at it. I have been given so much from the artisans of a hundred years ago. They gave me a beautiful Brownstone with strong walls and solid beams.
They built a hundred such Brownstones all around my building so I would have beauty as I walk along the block. They built so much more than brick structures. They built a community. This is building forward.
I have been given so much by them. Now it is my turn to give back. It does not cost me in money and time because I am a smart builder and I don’t waste money or time on things that don’t further my philosophy. Name brands, short term fads, decadent ego boosters, all the things that waste money but don’t build forward are not used.
That money and time is invested like a person invests money into a bank, only my bank is the Brownstone. And the account isn’t for me. It is for my children and their children and others in the community.
Building Forward is an act of giving to the future out of appreciation for what has been given from the past.
For many years people have built backwards. They have depleted the existing resources and built badly. The houses do not last and the resources are sapped. This leaves a burden on future generations. Not only do they have to rebuild but they have fewer resources to draw from.
People who build backwards are not holistic, not able to see that they are connected to the world and that their actions will effect it.
Building backwards is an act of ignorance from people who do not see their connection with the past and the future. They have become disconnected from the path of time. They no longer feel a connection with the people in the past who worked for their well being. Nor do they realize that they can be very helpful to the people in the future.
Backwards building depletes the resources that were accumulated by the hard work of people in the past and leaves a deficit for people in the future. This means that people in the future not only have to fend for themselves but they have to make up for the damage of their previous builders.
Instead of maintaining a nice strong home that was built by a future builder they have to rebuild the home. Not only that but they have to clean the river and replant the fields. All of this is extra work that depletes from their lives.
Building forward is the way to increase our strength. As each generation deposits more into the bank of time our collective power increases. With each generational contribution the next generation gains in good buildings, clean rivers, strong forests and a more diverse wildlife.
The are no heroic deeds, no great sacrifices. Like I said, it takes very little effort to make a future house. I simply build and ask myself, will this last 100 years? 200 years? Is this depleting what builders before me have created? Is it depleting my world now? They are actually simple questions with simple answers. It makes the work day interesting and gives it meaning.
We all make our humble contribution. But the cumulative contribution is phenomenal. I honestly believe that if we started now seven generations from now we would have a paradise on earth. Eden would be earth.
The energy needed to survive would be minimal because of the generations of embodied energy put into everything from our homes to our food. Time would be spent maintaining houses that need virtually no maintenance and that last forever. Time would be spent harvesting food that gave back more to the environment that it took.
And a lot of time would be spent exploring the beauty of ourselves and our world. People would be more relaxed, healthier, happier and in a better world.
Those of us living today will not see this. But that is ok. We will start it. There is something special about visionaries who can start things knowing they will never see the fulfillment. I can’t think of a more honorary and noble act. Will you join me in Building Forward?