InsideClimate News – Brooklyn

Eco Brooklyn would like to recognize the efforts and accomplishments of a fellow green advocate located in Brooklyn.

InsideClimate News is a rising nonprofit news website that focuses chiefly on environmental issues. Their objectives include providing scientific and objective investigations and news stories to inform the public and our officials living in these times of serious energy change. Additionally, InsideClimate News attempts to preserve the tradition and utility of environmental journalism.

InsideClimate News covers a wide scope of environmental information. Their hot topics include Keystone XL, natural gas drilling, climate change, nuclear energy, and environmental economics. It is a great site to keep people informed on green topics – from individuals to companies.

Most notably, InsideClimate News won the Pulitzer Prize in National Reporting for its investigative journalism on a 2010 oil spill in Marshall, Michigan. Their ebook, “The Dilbit Disaster: Inside the Biggest Oil Spill You’ve Never Heard Of” is the work of journalists Elizabeth McGowan, Lisa Song, and David Hasemyer. The book’s message details how the spill in Michigan was exacerbated by misinformation, substandard preparation, and a delayed response.

For example, the pipeline that leaked into a local stream, which entered the Kalamazoo River and threatened Lake Michigan, was carrying diluted bitumen. Diluted bitumen, or “dilbit” is a very heavy type of crude oil which is diluted with a cocktail of chemicals. More importantly, no one knew that the pipeline was carrying dilbit and the company, Enbridge Inc., did not inform first responders what they were dealing with until days after the spill was reported.

When all was said and done (though cleanup is still going on at some capacity) at least one million gallons of oil over 36 miles of between the Talmadge Creek and Kalamazoo. These bodies of water were closed for over two years and about 150 families were permanently relocated. The $765 million+ that Enbridge spent on the spill makes it the most expensive in US history. The reason why the spill went virtually unnoticed by the popular media was because the BP Deepwater Horizon spill occurred around the same time.

Enbridge is a Canadian oil and gas company. The dilbit that flowed through the pipelines comes from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada. It is very similar to the type of oil that would be transported by the Keystone XL pipeline.

For more information check out ICN’s website at


Christopher Jeffrey

3 Months Free Yoga in Return for Green Building Help – This weekend

Eco Brooklyn is looking for volunteers for a day of help moving some salvaged flooring from one lot to another in Park Slope. In exchange we can offer three months of free yoga at Area Yoga on court street and Montague Street.
When: Sunday March 24th.
Where: Park Slope, Brooklyn.
Please email if interested.

Green Building is not a product

A reporter just interviewed me on green building. I thought I’d share it here since the reporter has a pretty common viewpoint, one I believe is not correct.

What aspects home remodeling/room design are the most popular “green” solutions?
Most clients know they want to renovate green but usually don’t know exactly what the details of that look like. In many ways they come to Eco Brooklyn for education rather than your typical contractor/client relationship. Normally people are not as involved in the materials and process as a client doing a green renovation is.
The “green solution” is not a product but a method of building that uses less energy and is less toxic. This can apply to anything from flooring to landscaping. In terms of imaginary, if your typical non-green renovation had the metaphor of boots on a concrete sidewalk, then an ecological renovation is about walking barefoot at the beach.
This imagery highlights the importance of nature and walking lightly.

What are the top 3-5 products that Eco-Brooklyn suggests to homeowners? Ex. tankless water heaters, solar panels, etc.
We don’t have any. The focus for us is not product oriented. It isn’t even about consuming anything. For that reason we encourage the client to accept as much salvaged materials as possible. The greenest product is the product that doesn’t get made. Even greener is a “product” that is taken from the garbage, thus lightening the planet’s garbage load.
There are places we do buy new, and these are the areas that require maximum energy efficiency – windows, doors, appliances, water heaters etc. Again we don’t care what brand as long as it is the most efficient on the market at the time. That changes constantly.

Many eco-friendly options today are much pricier than its “normal” comparables. What do you say to a homeowner who is looking to justify the price?
That is only true if you live in complete isolation unconnected from anything else in the world. If you look at the big picture building green is much cheaper. The analogy I use is green building is paid for in cash. Normal construction is put on a credit card. Saying normal construction is cheaper than green is like saying things you buy on a credit card are free. Normal construction may be cheaper at the point of purchase, but who is really paying for your consumption? Is it that person dying of cancer? The child labor? The polluted river? The dying wildlife? Unless you have your head in the sand you don’t have to look very far to see how expensive building is. Green building looks a hell of a lot cheaper in comparison.

Eco Brooklyn Interview

BBox radio did a cool interview of Eco Brooklyn Director, Gennaro Brooks-Church. We discussed all sorts of things in the field of radical green building – Net Zero, Passive House, Guerrilla Green Building, Build It Forward and much more.

Check it out here! 



Eco Brooklyn has a Certified Passive House Tradesperson

Certified New York Passive House Tradesperson

I took the Passive House Consultant course a couple years ago because Eco Brooklyn was becoming a Passive House builder in NYC and I wanted to know the information. I didn’t take the exam to get certified since being a Passive House Consultant wasn’t the kind of work I enjoyed. I like building Passive Houses but the super technical calculations are tedious to me.

That is why I was very excited to take the Passive House Tradesperson course offered last month in the Bronx. We studied the practical things involved in building a Passive House – air sealing techniques, insulation strategies etc. This is great stuff for me so I did take the exam to become certified.

A nice spreadsheet with numbers is very necessary but if you don’t have a Passive House contractor to implement the numbers you don’t have a Passive House. And with so many of our New York green renovations, it may be impossible to actually reach Passive House standards due to budget, Landmarks restrictions or a million other reasons.

But a good Passive House builder can still get damn close nonetheless. Passive House building techniques are simply smart building that can be applied to any renovation.

Also, New York brownstones are all very similar. Once you get the formula it is something you can just repeat with each new job and you are 90% there, giving you a lot more time to focus on the 10% that is different from job to job.

I am happy to be a Certified Passive House Tradesperson because that is where my passion and skill lies.

The Living Building Challenge- Winner of the 2012 Buckminster-Fuller Challenge

Green building and eco-sensitive design is currently at the forefront of our modern ethos.   What this means for the green builders, contractors and architects of NY, and the world, is a period of dramatic change and challenge is ahead if not already begun. A change in the way we think about new buildings and construction, in how we consider “used” materials and how we use and interact with space.

As Scholar David Orr stated-

“We are coming to an era the likes of which we’ve never seen before, we’re in the white waters of human history. We don’t know what lies ahead. Bucky Fuller’s ideas on design are at the core of any set of solutions that will take us to calmer waters.”


One of the most prominent voices in sustainability and responsible design since the 1960’s is R. Buckminster Fuller.  Fuller pioneered in fields from architecture, and mathematics, to engineering and automobile design and only patented 12 designs allowing the vast majority of his work to be open-sourced and free to the public.

His life’s mission and philosophy was simple, “to make the world work for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or disadvantage of anyone.”

Even today, years after Fuller’s death his name is still the vanguard of the sustainable design community. The largest testament to his legacy is the R. Buckminster Fuller Institute and their annual international competition the Buckminster Fuller Design Challenge.

According to the institution’s website $100,000 is given “…to support the development and implementation of a strategy that has significant potential to solve humanity’s most pressing problems. Named “Socially-Responsible Design’s Highest Award” by Metropolis Magazine, it attracts bold, visionary, tangible initiatives focused on a well-defined need of critical importance. Winning solutions are regionally specific yet globally applicable and present a truly comprehensive, anticipatory, integrated approach to solving the world’s complex problems.”

In 2012 at an awards ceremony held here in NYC at Cooper Union The International Living Future Institute was awarded first prize for their “Living Building Challenge” initiative.  According to the institute’s website the Living building Challenge is:

-a PHILOSOPHY, ADVOCACY PLATFORM AND CERTIFICATION PROGRAM. Because it defines priorities on both a technical level and as a set of core values, it is engaging the broader building industry in the deep conversations required to truly understand how to solve problems rather than shift them.

-an EVOCATIVE GUIDE. By identifying an ideal and positioning that ideal as the indicator of success, the Challenge inspires project teams to reach decisions based on restorative principles instead of searching for ‘least common denominator’ solutions. This approach brings project teams closer to the objectives we are collectively working to achieve.

-a BEACON. With a goal to increase awareness, it is tackling critical environmental, social and economic problems, such as: the rise of persistent toxic chemicals; climate change; habitat loss; the collapse of domestic manufacturing; global trade imbalances; urban sprawl; and the lack of community distinctiveness.

-a ‘UNIFIED TOOL’. Addressing development at all scales, it can be equally applied to landscape and infrastructure projects; partial renovations and complete building renewals; new building construction; and neighborhood, campus and community design.

-a PERFORMANCE-BASED STANDARD. Decidedly not a checklist of best practices, the Challenge leads teams to embrace regional solutions and respond to a number of variables, including climate factors and cultural characteristics.


The challenge seeks to encourage designers to bridge the gap between the built environment and the surrounding ecosystems thus reinventing the typical developers’ business model and transforming the role of the building occupant from passive to more of an involved partnership with the earth and her resources.

For all manner of development the Living Building Principles are applicable, whether, “… a single building, a park, a college campus or even a complete neighborhood community, Living Building Challenge provides a framework for design, construction and the symbiotic relationship between people and all aspects of the built environment.”

You can download a complete document that outlines the specific requirements and benchmarks that must be met to receive certification HERE.

With its radical and rigorous requirements, this is more than “green washing”.  This is an excerpt from a statement released by The Fuller Institute after the award ceremony;

“The Living Building Challenge (LBC) is setting the standard for how to build in the 21st century by establishing the highest bar yet for environmental performance and ecological responsibility within the built environment … by “building a new model” and establishing new benchmarks for non-­‐toxic, net-­‐zero structures… The Living Building Challenge goes far beyond current best practices, reframing the relationship between the built and natural environments. LBC seeks to lead the charge toward a holistic standard that could yield an entirely new level of integration between building systems, transportation, technology, natural resources, and community. If widely adopted, this approach would significantly enhance the level of broad-­‐based social collaboration throughout the design and building process and beyond, dramatically reducing the destructiveness of current construction, boost the livability, health, and resilience of communities … the International Future Living Institute is charting a new and critically needed course in an industry that arguably remains one of the most consumptive … The LBC’s model of regenerative design in the built environment could provide a critical leverage point in the roadmap to a sustainable future and is an exemplary trim tab in its potential to catalyze innovation in such a high impact, high consumption industry…”

This is a valuable new asset and tool for the green building and green contracting community in NYC nd abroad in the fight for a greener and livable tomorrow.  -living building challenge website  -Buckminster-fuller institute website

Radical Sustainability and Passive House

Eco Brooklyn’s director, Gennaro Brooks-Church will be giving a presentation at New York’s 2012 Passive House Symposium. The topic of his presentation is “Radical Sustainability and Passive House.” The all day event is filled with interesting speakers and is a must for anyone interested in the worlds most cutting edge energy efficient building technique.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – June 8 – The 2012 Passive House Symposium is a one day exploration of the many Passive House projects underway in the New York area.  With over forty Passive House buildings currently in the process of being designed and built, New York is a leader in the US for Passive House construction.  The symposium will demonstrate how architects, builders and owners are meeting the demanding Passive House standard, making a substantive contribution to New York’s climate change mitigation efforts.
Presentations will include 6 retrofit projects and 9 new building projects that span every phase of the process.  Rowhouses, multifamily, commerical and institutional buildings will be presented – located from eastern Long Island to New York City to Upstate New York.  Attendees will be eligible to earn 5.5 hours of Professional Education Credits for NY State.


Passive House Project, NYC

Tomas O’Leary, Director of the Passive House Academy, will provide an international context for New York’s efforts.   Tomas will describe how this global standard is evolving while growing exponentially.  He will show examples that include Brussels Belgium where Passive House will be required for all new and retrofit construction in 2015.


Certified Passive Houses:  Orient Point by Ryall Porter Sheridan Architects with Right Environments, and Omega Institute by North River Architecture + Planning will be presented.


Passive Passion, a 20 minute documentary on Passive House in the US, featuring New York practitioners and Dr. Wolfgag Feist, by Charlie Hoxie, will be viewed during the day.

Round Table Presentations: A variety of practitioners, each focusing on a different essential aspect of Passive House design and construction, will provide observations about the complexities and possibilities of this exciting new building standard for the New York area.

Saturday June 23, 2012 from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM EDT

Sciame Auditorium
141 Convent Avenue
Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture
The City College of New York
New York, NY 10031


Passive House Institute LogoPassive House is an international building standard that affordably achieves the very highest levels of comfort and indoor air quality while reducing heating and cooling energy costs by up to 90%.  Passive House was formalized in Germany in the early 1990s by Dr. Wolfgang Feist and the Passive House Institute.   Passive House, with a proven track record of accurately predicting and delivering building performance, offers a clear, sustainable and affordable path for combating climate change.
NYPH logo

NY Passive House (NYPH) is an independent non-for-profit trade organization working to promote a healthy, comfortable and energy-efficient built environment through the promotion of the Passive House building standard.   Formed in 2010,  NYPH is supported by member dues and industry sponsors. NYPH facilitates the exchange of information and experiences, among practitioners of the Passive House building standard.
Affiliate of:
International Passive House Association

The Craft: Up On the (Living) Roof

Chrongram Magazine mentioned Eco Brooklyn in a recent article on green roofs. It is below:

A close-up of the green roof installed at the Mohonk Preserve Visitor’s Center in Gardiner by Aurora Landscape Design.
A close-up of the green roof installed at the Mohonk Preserve Visitor’s Center in Gardiner by Aurora Landscape Design.

by Gregory Schoenfeld, April 27, 2012

When Shawn McCloskey returned home to his native Kingston in 2000, things were pretty much the way he had left them. After years in the Pacific Northwest, honing his craft of landscaping design, McCloskey began to build his Aurora Landscape firm in a Hudson Valley design scene that was comfortably reminiscent of the one he had grown up with.

It was a bit too comfortable for McCloskey’s taste.

“I looked around and realized that things weren’t happening around here,” recalls McCloskey. “We needed to see change, and we needed to diversify.” Seeking to incorporate the kind of sustainable advancements that are, unfortunately, often more prevalent abroad than in the United States, McCloskey found his inspiration in green roof installation. A longstanding practice in regions like Scandinavia, and for decades an increasingly popular environmental trend in many European countries, a “green roof” is exactly what it sounds like: living vegetation thriving on top of building structure, just where common sense would dictate. Continual developments in technology and application have transformed the sod-and-grass roofs of old Norwegian villages into a spectacular—and sustainable—array of choices.

Joining forces with trend-setting manufacturer LiveRoof, which offers an environmentally sound, pre-vegetated modular system, McCloskey’s work has hit the ground—or the roof—blooming. Examples of striking blends of multicolored Sedum plants, and the reduced carbon footprint they provide, can be found at places like Rhinebeck’s Omega Institute and atop the Mohonk Preserve Visitors’ Center—providing precious visibility for a movement with a seemingly unending list of benefits. Besides the obvious aesthetic improvements (when was the last time you stopped and gazed at a field of well-laid roof shingle?), green roofing begins with long-term savings, both residentially and commercially. “The best part is, the sustainability is a result of practicality,” says McCloskey. The UV protection provided by a properly installed system can triple the life expectancy of the roof itself, and the improved insulation can save 25 percent or more of heating and cooling energy usage. Living roof coverage also comprehensively helps with stormwater drainage issues, and it’s myriad associated costs. The secondary effects are equally as significant, as the process helps reduce pollution as well as damaging overheating effects, particularly in urban areas.

Slowly but surely, the United States is catching up with the global awareness of how beneficial green roofing can be, with recent legislation providing tax incentives for implementing the green technology. Practitioners like Gennaro Brooks-Church—whose Eco Brooklyn design firm does groundbreaking work in New York City, where any living space is at a premium—believes that the holistic environmental and lifestyle improvements of green building suggest a mandate for a sustainable future. “People are increasingly seeing the necessity of green roofs, especially in cities where stormwater runoff, heat island effect, pollution mitigation, local food sources and diminishing wildlife habitats are all concerns,” explains Brooks-Church. “A green roof helps solve all these issues.”

Get Your “Passport to Green NY” and Celebrate Earth Day Early!

As NY Green Contractors, we work hard to turn NYC green and we love any opportunity to share our labors with the public because it spreads awareness of green building.  The Earth Day New York organization has created a great way for New Yorkers to celebrate Earth Day as well as learn more about green businesses and opportunities in the city.  The event is called “Passport to Green NY” and runs from March 20 to April 21.

 It is essentially a scavenger hunt style event that encourages participants to visit as many of the participating green businesses as possible to compete for prizes and raise awareness about what’s available in NYC for those looking to live greener.  The “passport” also includes valuable coupons and discounts that can be used at the participating green locations, everything from Build it Green NYC to the Bronx Zoo to Bare Burger.  For example, head to the New York Botanical Garden for 20% of any all-garden pass when you use your new passport from Earth Day New York.

This event gives people incentive to choose green products and services by offering discounts, prizes and simply by spreading awareness about them.  As a NY Green Contractor and green business, we love events like this because it gives us a chance to highlight our work, as well as showing us the work of others who share the common goal of turning NYC green.

To download your own copy of the Passport, check out the website.  Happy (green) shopping and eating!

Benefit Corporations law signed and active in New York State!

Finally, a way to pursue the “triple bottom line” (people, planet and profits) with legal backing! It is called the Benefit Corporation (as opposed to a normal C or S Corporation for example). Signed into NY legislation by Governor Cuomo the new law allows businesses to be recognized and filed a for more than their financial goals.

Benefit Corporations have a legal responsibility to all stakeholders, not just the shareholders like a traditional C or S Corps.  This means they are obligated to take into account the effects of their decisions on the community, the environment, employees, etc.  Benefit Corporations can also voluntarily undergo certification by the nonprofit organization B Lab that makes them “Certified B Corporations” and ensures they have a social purpose and benefits for stakeholders.  More on that here .

With the new law, New York is joining states that have already passed similar legislation, including Maryland, Vermont, New Jersey, Virginia, Hawaii, California.

The key distinctions of Benefit Corporations from traditional corporations are these three things:

1)    Purpose: They must have a corporate purpose to create a material positive impact on society and the environment;

2)     Accountability: They must expand the directors’ and employees’ fiduciary duty to require consideration of the interests of workers, community and the environment and all stakeholder

3)     Transparency: They must publicly report annually on overall social and environmental performance against a comprehensive, credible, independent, and transparent third party standard

Other than these three additions, the Benefit Corporations is set up and taxed as a traditional corporation would be.  However, for social entrepreneurs like EcoBrooklyn, this changes everything. It protects the mission and purpose of the business and holds up the triple bottom line as a priority.  In other words, it legally never puts profits for shareholders above the stakeholders – something that social businesses have been trying to do for decades.

B Lab is a nonprofit that helped create the Benefit Corporation and now works to establish the option of a Benefit Corporation in all states through legislation.  Much of the above information came from their website.  More information on the requirements and specific details of a Benefit Corporation here.

“Same River: We are all downstream”

Here is a MUST SEE event. It is an inspiring creative synergy of art spread over several evenings to raise momentum against the  very serious threat of hydrofracking.

The Irondale Arts Center in Fort Greene, Brooklyn is putting it on and it starts in a couple of weeks.  The show’ll be different every night: it incorporates artwork, live music, video, modern dance, and physical theater.  Each night ends with a town-hall discussion of the issues presented.  “Same River” presents the community with an opportunity to get involved in an important environmental issue, so check it out if you’re in the area.

Check out the Irondale website for more information and tickets:

Here’s their press release:



“Same River” A Play About Hydro-Fracking @ Irondale

“SAME RIVER” is a multi-media, interview-based, improvised production.  As hydro-fracking is poised to affect NYC’s water supply, “Same River” brings the upstate war over this controversial method of drilling downstream. Strike Anywhere Performance Ensemble, whose production of “10 Brecht Poems” was heralded by the Village Voice as “poignant and appreciated,” will premiere “SAME RIVER” starting February 23, 2012 and run until March 3, 2012 at the Irondale Center on 85 S. Oxford St. Brooklyn, NY 11217. Tickets $20-$40 ($15 tickets Wed/Thurs only).  Shows Thursday-Saturday 2/23-2/25 and Wednesday-Saturday 2/29-3/3 at 8PM; student matinee at 1PM on Friday March 2nd, 2012.  Tix: 866-811-4111 or

Including live music, modern dance, physical theater, and video, this improvised show will be different every night. Following each show, there will be a tightly facilitated “town hall” discussion on the issues the piece presents. Experts will be on hand to propel the conversation.

Audience members will experience a visual art installation upon entry to the theater.  The artwork is the result of a seven-week residency at nearby Brooklyn High School for the Arts with the science, theater and technical theater classes.  Art work will also be developed during a community art-making day for families on February 11 at 2:00 PM at Irondale Center (ages 6 and up).

Strike Anywhere Performance Ensemble began to develop SAME RIVER in July 2010 as part of the North American Cultural Laboratory’s (NACL) Catskill Festival of New Theater. During this 10-day residency, Strike Anywhere interviewed local residents about water and researched community water issues. Now, as the decision to lift the moratorium on fracking in New York creeps nearer, Strike Anywhere seeks to engage the Fort Greene neighborhood in this discussion.  The ensemble will trace the path of Brooklyn’s water supply and illuminate the struggles of communities upstate which are in the thick of the gas-leasing gold rush. Interviews with Brooklyn residents will examine their relationship to water, their knowledge of local water issues and their familiarity with fracking. The piece seeks to draw connections, to give voice to multiple viewpoints and to acknowledge that we are all downstream, that the earth’s water supply is all the same river.

Established in 1997, STRIKE ANYWHERE is a permanent ensemble of world-class jazz musicians, modern dancers, and actors.  Known for their use of SOUNDPAINTING, the live composing sign language, the ensemble creates art in the moment, allowing intuition, the sounds of the room and audience suggestion to shape what they play.  SA performances always feature live music, physical theater and modern dance.  The company applies structures and concepts from American jazz to their inter-disciplinary improvisations to create performances that are provocative and alive.  Strike Anywhere has toured nationally and internationally. The company was in residence at The Zipper Factory and St. Clements developing new works. It has appeared at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the American Airlines Theatre, The Irondale Center, P.S. 122, Theatre for the New City, and HERE Arts Center. Additionally Strike Anywhere has been featured on Radio France, NPR, WBAI and German Public Radio.

Irondale was created by Jim Niesen, Terry Greiss and Barbara Mackenzie-Wood, in 1983. Through the power of the ensemble process, Irondale creates and presents theater, performance, and education programs that challenge traditional assumptions about art, and help us to better understand today’s world. The Irondale Center is the company’s theater, laboratory, and classroom.  It is also home for ensemble artists of all disciplines and cultures.

Material Reuse with the NYCMEDP

Eco Brooklyn has partnered up with the NYC Materials Exchange Development Program, a great non-profit that keeps reusable materials out of the trash by connecting people with unwanted materials to others who can reuse them.

The NYCMEDP runs a number of ongoing service, outreach, and research programs.  The NYC Waste Match, for example, is a free service that can help green builders salvage materials efficiently by connecting us directly with businesses and individuals doing demolition and construction.  Waste Match also helps these people save money on disposal costs while building an environmentally friendly image.  Salvage is a win-win situation, and we hope that more people will choose to reuse materials now that the NYCMEDP is providing an easy way to do it.

Check out our member page on their site!

How Social Entrepreneurs and Non-Profiteers Should Pitch Stories

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend a teleclass hosted by Marissa Feinberg, founder of Green Spaces, on writing pitches for social entrepreneurs and non-profiteers.

Large corporations pay premium prices  for professional PR services.  We’re a small New York green builder with a big mission: to turn New York green.  Our job is a mix of green building and educational outreach.  Having a good pitch is crucial to getting our story as much exposure as possible.

A “pitch” refers to the quick-and-dirty description of a story and why it matters.  Writers, for example, will pitch stories to editors, but in this context we talked about how small businesses would pitch stories to journalists in order to have their work featured.

A good pitch will:

1. Consider the style of the intended journalist and publication.  Before pitching a story, you should look through headlines and topics they’ve already covered to get a sense of what they’re looking for.  You should determine, for example, whether the publication has a local or national audience and focus your story accordingly.  Why should this publication/journalist feature your story?

2. Tie into timely, relevant events, such as recent news stories, upcoming holidays, or industry trends.   Why is your story important now?

3. Have a calculated effect on people’s behavior.  What do you want people to do differently, after having read your story?

I went into the class knowing absolutely nothing.  Thanks again to Marissa, for your patience.  I know a lot of other innovative thinkers could use help getting their ideas out there.

The first pitch night event is tonight!  Check out the event info.

Passive House Tour

Come check out our Open House and Blowerdoor test at our Harlem Passive House renovation.

When: Friday, November 11, 2011, 4:30 PM
Where: 156 West 130th Street, Manhattan.

The New York Passive House community is kicking off the weekend of International Open Passive House days at Ecobrooklyn’s project in Harlem. The house is well underway and the Triple pane Rieder windows are in, the walls are insulated and sealed. This 3 family brownstone renovation is primarily using reclaimed building materials and only buys new when needed or crucial to make the house as efficient as possible (windows, mechanicals, airtight tapes and membranes). Everything else – studs, floors, walls – is salvaged.

Gennaro Brooks-Church, Director of Eco Brooklyn, and his team have been going strong and are ready for the blowerdoor test, last time we were able to find some mayor leaks so please join us and help us find the last few leaks.

Note that this is still a construction site, so dress appropriately and be ready to sign a liability waiver.

A detail of the air sealed ceiling of the Manhattan passive house renovation

Occupy Wall Street

On 10/11/11 Eco Brooklyn, a green builder and supporter of a better America and world, went down to the Financial district to check out Occupy Wall Street. Nearly 30 days ago, a diverse group of citizens took to the street in NYC, and marched down to Zuccotti Park, formerly “Liberty Plaza Park”, placed in between Wall Street, the financial center of the U.S., and Ground Zero.

            Although formal demands will not be made, the message brought by Occupy Wall Street is clear.  They call for an end to corruption and greed, to bring about a better, cleaner, fairer world.  Cleaner, fairer, and better are all words that definitely relate to the idea of sustainability, which seems to be a theme for the protesters at OWS.  They hope to create a sustainable system of economics and government that’s not only sustainable for the people in charge and involved now, but also for the people of the future.  Similarly to OWS, Eco Brooklyn sees the need for an immediate change in the building and construction industry. For too long, a system has been used that leads to crumbling infrastructure and high energy costs, and now it’s time for an immediate change to use recycled and salvaged material to make zero energy homes.  This is a practical goal, that’s sustainable not only for the people living in the new homes, but also for the generations to come.

OWS also has areas for making and displaying art, garbage collection and recycling, a food buffet, a drum circle/music group, a webcast, an info center for volunteers, as well spaces to access the internet and charge cell phones and battery powered devices.  With mattresses and sleeping bags spread throughout these areas, one had to be careful navigating between the people protesting and things and people on the ground, but despite the difference in peoples body language and stature, the feeling of unity was unmistakable- everyone united as one, fighting for a better, fairer, cleaner world.  For more check out Thomas Friedman’s Op-Ed piece in the New York Times.

Climate Week NYC and Green Contracting in New York

Climate Week NYC offers up to 8 events a day.  And many of them relate to green building in unexpected ways.

What better time of the year to let your green out?  Climate Week NYC offers such a wide variety of events at varying locations and times to fit everyone’s interests and schedules.  For a complete listing of events up until next Tuesday the 27th, click here  However, I have compiled a list of events that are especially relevant to those interested in Green Contracting.  I’ve included events related to materials in green contracting, green roofs, energy efficiency, sustainable events in Brooklyn, and a sustainable lifestyle in general.  The events that I have included are all free and open to the public, but some do require reservations (check the website for details).

Climate Week NYC, pic taken by TheClimateGroup


  • The Bottom Line on Climate Change: Transitioning To Renewable Energy.  8:30 am-6:30 pm.  Wollman Hall, The New School, Eugene Lang Building, 65 West 11th st, 5th floor.  FRIDAY AND SATURDAY. Reservations required.

Energy reduction, and using alternative energy sources are a large part of green contracting.  This event includes government officials, scientists, politicians, business leaders, and professors.  This mix of people should result in a very practical and unbiased discussion that will be focused on real-world ways of implementing clean energy into everyday life.

  • The Albedo Effect.  6-6:30 pm.  Cubana Social.  70 N 6th street between Wythe and Kent, Brooklyn.

This very short event will fit even the busiest of schedules.  This event is a performance of dance and film representing an urban heat island.  The performance includes ways to reduce this heat island that are relevant to green contracting.

SATURDAY 24, 2011

  • Reflecting the Stars. All day, pier 29, Hudson River Park, West 11th and Bank Street.

This event uses steel pipes with LED light bulbs inside of them to recreate the night sky in Manhattan.  These steel pipes were chosen to juxtapose the lightbulbs because the steel pipes will turn rusty quickly while the lightbulbs will continue to look new.  The type of material to use is an important choice in green contracting.  This event showcases one of the ways to juxtapose materials.

  • Cooling a roof.  9-3 pm.  Henry Street Settlement, 466 Grand Street. 

This event is perfect for those of you who want to know more about green roofs and how to install them.  This event is hosted by NYC CoolRoofs, which is an NYC government collaboration between the department of service and building.

  • Moving Planet- Sustainable Flatbush.  11am-3pm.  Church Avenue Communal Garden at the Flatbush Reformed Church, 890 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn. 

This event is perfect for getting to more about sustainable efforts in Brooklyn.  Sustainable Flatbush is also doing some really interesting things, such as setting up their own off-grid solar system, called SunBike.  The rest of the event will focus on the use of plants in urban spaces, from urban gardens to green roofs.

  • Moving Planet NYC.  11:30am-4pm.  Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, East 47th at 1st ave,

This event is being included not really because of its direct relevance to green contracting, but because of its sheer size and importance.  Moving planet is being organized by several NYC groups as well as, an organization committed to reducing C02.  For more information, check out their website,,,

  • 2011 Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) Annual Meeting.  5-9pm.  CUNY Institute for Sustainable cities, Hunter College.  695 Park Ave.  Registration required.

This event is hosted by NESEA and GreenHomeNYC, which is the local chapter of NESEA.  This event is unparallelled among climate week events for its networking opportunities.


Although this event goes on everyday, it is an especially good event for a relaxing Sunday, especially after a busy week of attending climate week events.  This event is hosted by the NYC DOT LED Pilot Project.  Although this project is mainly concerned with installing LED lights on streets, LED lights can be used in green contracting as well.

Other events on Sunday are repeats, such as Reflecting the Stars, and Cooling a Roof.


  • Meditations on a Warming Planet: An Audience Participation Performance.  6-8pm.  Sheep Meadow, Central Park.  West Side, between 66th and 69th.

Unfortunately some of the most interesting events today are out of budget for the average person (upwards of $600 per event).  But there is this nice free event to connect you to nature, while allowing for some audience participation as well.  Although this event is climate themed, and therefore not directly related to green contracting, the overarching goal of the environmental movement is to prevent climate change (as well as some other things).  So sit back in Central Park and enjoy the big picture.


Unfortunately the last day of climate week events has no free events.  But, in case you are willing to pay I’ll include some interesting events anyway.

  • Transportation Transformation.  8-10:30am.  $10 for members, $20 for non-members.  ConEd Headquarters, 4 Irving place.

While transportation is not explicably linked to green contracting, green transportation is a part of a sustainable lifestyle.  Explore three different green transportation firms that are starting to make an impact on how we drive, park, and bike in New York City.



Upcoming Speaking Announcement

Green Home NYC is featuring Gennaro Brooks-Church as a guest speaker. He will be speaking on two key concepts he coined: Build It Forward and the Zero Brownstone. More info below on the event next week.

greenhomenyc logo

August forum: Working with contractors (AIA credit)August’s forum will discuss working with contractors in both residential and commercial projects. Along with teams of architects, designers, and specifiers, the future of green construction is in the contractors’ hands. Please join GreenHomeNYC on August 18th to hear how these innovative people are greening our skyline, one building at a time.

When: Wednesday – August 18, 2010. 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Where: Trespa, 62 Greene Street, Manhattan
Please RSVP . Space is limited.

We are providing AIA credit for this forum ($15), click here if you are interested.

Our speakers are:
Gennaro Brooks-Church, NY Licensed Real Estate Broker, Certified EcoBroker®, National Sustainable Advisor Program, LEED AP and Passive House Consultant Trainee, directs Eco Brooklyn. He coined two important building concepts: Build It Forward and the Zero Brownstone. Build It Forward is where all building must be made to last at least one hundred years, be a desirable gift to future generations and not drain existing resources. The Zero Brownstone is when a brownstone is renovated using no new materials, creating no waste and the end result is a home that uses no energy.

Eco Brooklyn is Featured in NY Times Blog

Here is an article on Eco Brooklyn in today’s NY Times Blog.

The general gist is that green building can be affordable. They say Eco Brooklyn “practices guerrilla green-building techniques”  to achieve this, which involves a lot of dumpster diving and salvage.

We try to set up more formal ways of collecting material but it is not easy. I had an agreement with a contractor who was renovating a brownstone that instead of cutting the wood joists and throwing them out he would take them out whole and give them to me. He saves on dumpster fees, the wood is saved, and I save money while being green. Triple bottom line – people, planet, profit.

I hadn’t heard from him so today I drove by his job site to see how his progress was. I was met by a dumpster full of cut joists. Very discouraging. I see a lot of waste and am used to it. People don’t know any better. But I get bummed when people blatantly waste when there is an alternative. Forget about saving the planet for a second, the irony is that being green would save the contractor money.

This contractor inertia means a lot of our salvage is done without formal supply streams – dumpster diving, catching contractors at the moment they take out the material, getting an inside garbage tip from a worker etc.

We’d much rather not have to be so guerrilla. But unfortunately it is one of the few green building options for now.

Anatomy of a Brownstone Event This Spring

The NY City College of Technology does this cool seminar series called Anatomy of a Brownstone. This spring I’ll be one of their speakers. For more info see below.

anatomy of a brownstone1
anatomy of a brownstone
Spring 2010 Offering: Layouts and Lifestyles
Course Code: BRNS 032
Date:             Saturday  3/13   1 – 5 pm
Fee:              $40
Directions:    click here

When it’s time to renovate your Brownstone, there may be nothing like the original. But how do you create a floor plan that fits your lifestyle? During this edition of the popular Anatomy of a Brownstone series, we will mix a little history and a lot of examples of what your neighbors’ Brownstones look like inside and outside their old homes. Architects and designers will show you how to fit your family’s life and style into a classic Brownstone.


12 to 1pm

Alexander Stoltz AIA, Vaidya Stoltz Architects, and Kenneth Conzelmann, RA are members of the City Tech Architectural Technology department.
They will share examples of recent projects and offer insights into the architectural process- from ideas to finished home.

1 to 2 pm

Gennaro Brooks-Church, is a Certified Eco Broker, LEED AP, National Sustainable Building Adviser and the founder of Eco Brooklyn, a company that focuses on green brownstone renovations. He will discuss passive design approaches for creating energy-smart brownstones.

2 to 3 pm

Interior Designer Judith Angel, Allied Member ASID, will show how to bring rooms into focus using principles of form and design. Learn to use the objects you own and love as the starting point for a room that is distinctly your own.

4 to 5 pm

Debra Salomon, Program Developer at City Tech Division of Continuing Education and owner of 408 Group Design, will share favorite sources for fixtures and furnishings that will fit your style and budget.

Download registration form here and complete. (Include course code)

Ways To Register:

By Phone: Call 718 552-1170
charge cards

By Mail:
Complete registration form and mail check or money order to:
NYCCT Continuing Studies Center, 300 Jay Street, Howard Building 4th Floor
Brooklyn NY 11201

Walk in: 25 Chapel Street, 4th Floor, Brooklyn NY 11201
Click here for directions

Gennaro Brooks-Church is a Sustainable Building Advisor

I just graduated from the nine month training by the National Sustainable Building Advisor Program. The program is for working professionals so the benefits of the class come just as much from the content as from other students.

The students were construction leaders from many fields: HVAC, environmental remediation, architecture, furniture, design and a lot more. It made for a really rich meeting of the minds.

The content is focused on being an advisor in green building projects. As such the course offers a powerful framework  to look at any building project and understand the key elements needed to turn the project into a successful green enterprise.

I took the course because of its long timeline. Nine months allowed us to really get to know each other and digest the information slowly.

I also appreciated the real commitment to green building the course offered. Compare that to something like LEED where it feels more like a game in filling out forms and getting plaques. The NaSBAP’s core was purely about making a better green environment and that is something I really appreciated.

I got a lot of useful information I plan on applying to Eco Brooklyn’s focus on Brooklyn green brownstones.

I really enjoyed the course and recommend it to anyone interested in becoming a green building leader.

Eco Brooklyn Has New T-shirts!

Eco Brooklyn just got a new shipment of T-shirts. All sizes all colors. Bought from garment district rejects, although we can’t see any flaws in them. $20. You have to come by the show house to get one. We don’t ship.

They say “Eco Brooklyn – Build It Forward”. On the top you have greenery on the bottom you have bricks – Brooklyn in a nutshell.

Wear one with pride. Lets turn Brooklyn green!

All proceeds go towards giving free T-shirts and educational support to our interns.

Organizing the sizes.

Gennaro with one of our summer interns, Jaqueline.

Daily News Mentions Eco Brooklyn

Today’s issue of the NY Daily News mentioned Eco Brooklyn and quoted Gennaro Brooks-Church. They posted the below pic and had this to say about Eco Brooklyn and Gennaro:

green builder with family on green roof in brooklyn
Here, Gennaro Brooks- Church is renovating his home, on 2nd Street in Brooklyn, here with his 5 and a half year old daughter Saomi and one year old son Cazimir on their rooftop garden which will eventually grow strawberries.

Gennaro Brooks-Church and his 5-year-old daughter always wash their hands after they go canoeing on the murky green water. A green builder and real-estate broker, Church is renovating a five-story, 102-year-old brick home he bought a couple of blocks west of the canal. Eventually, the house will be a two-family residence and showhouse for Eco Brooklyn, Church’s building business.

Church likes the local public school, PS 58. He’s lived near the Gowanus for years and identifies with the neighborhood. While he acknowledges that living next to a designated Superfund site could flatten real-estate prices, in the long run he thinks having a clean waterway would increase home values. The canal “is a gem that has yet to be polished,” he says.


Since it was an article on the Gowanus Canal the Daily News contacted Eco Brooklyn for two reasons.

One is that Eco Brooklyn is very vocal about being pro Superfund designation. As a real estate developer that is a strange stance to have. All the developers we know in this area are against the Superfund designation because it might adversely effect real estate prices in the short run.

The second reason is that Eco Brooklyn has a reputation through the Brooklyn Green Show House for renovating brownstones in a different way: One of the differences is the extended awareness of how the house effects the waterways.

We are very aware that the Show House it is a block from the Gowanus. When we flush the toilet on a rainy day there is a good chance the sewage will end up in the canal. The show house since is designed to reduce sewage and storm water run off into the Gowanus Canal through low flow fixtures, gray water, lots of vegetation in the yards and a green roof. Only when it really pours for a long time will water come off the property.

When people take a shower or use the sink in the show house the water does not go down the drain. It goes to a tank on the property and is reused for the toilets. This means that no potable water is ever used to flush toilets.

Lastly, the showers, sinks and toilets are the lowest water consuming fixtures on the market. All this makes for barely a trickle down the drain to the main sewer.

It is great to be recognized by the Daily News for these efforts. We feel very strongly about an increased awareness of how a house effects the surrounding world through its energy and water consumption and waste. For a mainstream mag like the Daily News to recognize that in a positive way is a step in the right direction.

Our efforts to completely green Brooklyn are supported by the article.