One of the many differences between renovating a Brooklyn brownstone the old fashioned way and doing a green renovation is the difference in cycles.
A normal brownstone renovation is very similar to all post-industrial activity: MAN OVER NATURE. And ever since the “triumph of science” we have been able to overpower the earths natural cycles and impose our own. The classic example is the invention of electricity and the light bulb.
Since the beginning of time man stopped most activity when the sun went down. But now the passing of the sun has very little impact on our activities. We have created our own light/darkness independence from nature.
In the typical construction of a Brooklyn brownstone we see this in the way materials are sourced. The construction cycle is determined by what the builder wants. He simply calls up the local building supply store and says, “I want the (Canadian) plywood sub floor to come on Wednesday, I want the (Brazilian) hardwood floors to come on Thursday, and I want the (English) kitchen cabinets to come on Friday.”
God has spoken and the building supply store sends off its minions around the world to rape and pillage the earth and they come back with the goods by Wednesday. More or less. The availability of anything at any time and we don’t have to feel the burden of it since most of the impact is across the globe.
But a green brownstone renovation doesn’t work like that at all. We don’t call up the local building store and command. We scurry around to the local dumpsters, we scour the used salvage yards, we surf the web for second hand materials, and we make connections with other contractors who might have overstock.
What we get and when we get it is very determined by the local cycles. For example if a job site down the road is doing demo of the walls we know there is a good chance that in about two weeks they will be ripping out the floors. We plan our job accordingly to be ready for those salvaged floors.
And the color of the floors we salvage will influence the color of the kitchen counter we will look for. The process is much more a give and take with our environment. We go out in the morning in search of plywood for the subfloor but instead we find sheet rock. Guess what we will be doing in the afternoon? We’ll change plans and instead of doing the floor we’ll sheet rock the walls.
This give and take at first seems chaotic and unproductive to the Divine contractor who can call and demand whatever the want whenever they want, but we see it as much more in tune with the environment. And that harmony is very important to us on a global scale. It is an acknowledgment that we are part of a larger flow.
We see the post-industrial attitude as extremely arrogant. The “make it happen at whatever the cost” attitude that arguably built the Western Empire and that is now building the Chinese Empire in my opinion has too high a cost attached to it. You can’t push against the universe for too long until it pushes back and completely annihilates you.
I was speaking with my electrician today about how Eco Brooklyn could just as easily be a environmental nonprofit fighting for California Redwoods or working for the rights of the Amazonian Indians. Our main purpose it to improve the ecology of the world. It just so happens we are using green building in Brooklyn as our tool to do that.
This is why the way that we source materials is so important. If we source locally, in harmony with local cycles, then we are so much more than a construction company and hopefully we are improving the world’s ecology.