On the Eco Brooklyn job sites we have certain green building concepts that we use. They are mostly coined by me to help the crew and clients understand what Eco Brooklyn’s core goals are. They are easy rallying points to help us all stay on track.
These terms can be searched on this site for more details. Here they are in short:
Build It Forward
We have been given a gift by the builders who originally built brownstones. They are wonderful structures. Our job as green builders is to be custodians of those brownstones and build them forward, meaning we build so that our work is a gift to future generations. This means we build with value, longevity and integrity – all sustainable concepts. We don’t build crap that saps the resources for future generations rather we add value and store that value in the brownstone.
A zero brownstone has been renovated along certain low waste, low consumption and energy efficient principles. During the deconstruction phase (aka demo phase) zero waste is created. 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 is built using energy efficient techniques so that it consumes no energy off site.
Firstly it consumes very little energy due to good design – insulation, solar design, energy efficient appliances – and the energy it does consume is generated onsite via PV, Solar Thermal or geothermal. The brownstone is also designed to create zero waste via gray water, composting food scraps and toilet waste. These are lofty goals but with each renovation we perfect the process further.
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.
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.
This is not my term. The Gotham Forest is the millions of board feet of timber sequestered away in our buildings. About a hundred years ago forests of old growth trees were cut down to build New York. This ancient wood sits in our buildings protected and ready for reuse. Each time we dismantle a building for another use or for an upgrade we get access to this amazing wood. It should provide us with wood for a long time to come.
Eco Brooklyn has yet to buy new wood. We have not bought any new flooring, studs, joists or molding. Yet we build mostly with wood since it is harder to salvage metal. We do this thanks to the abundance of wood it old New York and Brooklyn brownstones.
Guerrilla Green Building
I mentioned this during an interview once and it was published. Only then did I realize how key this is to Eco Brooklyn’s model. Guerrilla Green Building is what allows Eco Brooklyn to build green while keeping our costs low and making a large impact. Basically we turn green building into a political ethical enterprise and not merely another consumer market.
Eco Brooklyn has shattered the connection between high costs and green building because we source our materials differently than other wanna be green builders. Their idea of building green is buying green. There are countless companies who have met the demand for green stuff. And they charge a premium because there is limited competition and the volume is still low. But that is still stuck in the old model of consumerism, which is the root of our ecological crisis.
Eco Brooklyn practices Guerrilla Green Building by not only changing how we build but also “why” we build and how we source. We build not only because it is a great business opportunity but because it transforms how business is done for the better. We are Turning Brooklyn Green and by connection the world. That is the why.
The sourcing – dumpsters, salvage etc – is more than a practical way to save money. It is a direct snub of consumer practices, something we believe needs to be drastically reduced if we are going to save the planet. The director of corporate sales at Lowes is a business friend of mine. But he jokes that Eco Brooklyn is his worst client. And we are. We are determined to minimize what we buy new.
Turn Brooklyn Green
This is the daily ongoing goal of Eco Brooklyn. It is our mantra, the meter with which we keep ourselves on track. It is a simple localized focus that is very easy to gauge. Do our decisions help turn Brooklyn green? Will building this wall help turn Brooklyn green? Will this job help turn Brooklyn green? With this guide we stay focused on a mission that is easy to rally around and easy to feel you are making progress on a daily basis. It makes it easy for us to feel we have a purpose in life, easy to feel good about what we are doing.
Triple Bottom Line
This is not my term. The triple bottom line is another easy metric. Do our actions benefit People, Planet and Profit? Again we ask ourselves this on an ongoing basis. You can 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).