Green Building and Civil Disobedience in Brooklyn

Green Building is a moral prerogative. It is amoral not to build green because to do so is to destroy the earth and ourselves. We must build green because it is the most ethical thing to do.

This is why building green and civil disobedience are so closely connected. The New York and Brooklyn Department of Buildings are understaffed, underpaid and overworked. They can’t be expected to take leadership on green building issues.

They are too busy keeping cheap and corrupt contractors and homeowners from killing themselves through bad building.

It is the green building community’s responsibility to take action in terms of defining correct building. This may or may not go against existing antiquated building code. If it goes against current code regulations we need to see it as a moral imperative to do it anyway and see it as an act of civil disobedience.

The following things go against current out dated city code regulations but should be implemented anyway:

high efficiency non UL rated LED lighting
using salvaged wood in new load bearing construction
gray water systems
shallow green roofs without building permits
pex tubing for potable water
keeping bees
rainwater collection for toilets and showers

Can you think of any others? Post below.

Your alarm bells might be going off but if the above list is performed by a skilled professional with integrity then the end result is better building than current building standards. If it means waiting after inspection to do them then so be it. We need to build better and we don’t have the time to piss around with bureaucracy to make it happen.

Through critical mass and popular opinion we can eventually change DOB code but we can’t depend on them to take leadership nor can we wait for them to catch up. The planet is in bad shape and we need to start cleaning up now. NOT when the building inspector approves it.

Where are you sitting in the bus? If you are still sitting in the back then get off your black ass and come up to the front where you belong. There is a green revolution happening and we need every seat to be accounted for.

About the author: Gennaro Brooks-Church

Has one comment to “Green Building and Civil Disobedience in Brooklyn”

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  1. Mike Michaud - July 16, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    I am a conservation-minded homeowner-turned-builder of (near) zero-energy homes. I am involved with retrofitting existing homes with alternative power equipment. I am in the front-lines of saving our natural resources and eliminating our dependence on oil, especially foreign, one home at a time. It is my personal fight against the need for our presence in the Middle-East. Energy independence = National Security and a less confrontational world.

    I agree that owners and builders should be taking the lead in building more efficiently and with an eye on multi-generational homes/buildings. The days of cheap 2×4 construction that last only 20-50 years are nearing an end. It is more cost effective to build for the long term than for the short term.

    Not being from Brooklyn, I don’t know how your building codes are written/enforced. Building codes should only be the MINIMUM standards. We should be free to go well beyond those guidelines.

    You asked for ideas. Borrow an old idea from the Amish. Have “barn raisings”. You know, you and your neighbors working together to handle your neighborhood building/remodeling projects as a community. In effect, that is what Habitat for Humanity does when they build homes.

    You’ll build neighborhood cohesion, increase awareness of better building practices and materials and learn that we really are all interconnected by our individual actions and decisions.

    I’m not from Brooklyn, I’m in Texas. I’m not black, I’m white. I don’t ride the bus, I take a horse (not really, just have to keep the stereotype going, although I do wear “cowboy” boots). So I say to you, do what needs to be done, go above and beyond, build today like our grandchildren’s lives are at stake. They may just very well be.

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