Brownstone Gut Renovation

A green brownstone, condominium or co-op is much, much cheaper when you include the overall costs over a 5-10 year period. When viewed over more than 10 years it makes absolutely no sense NOT to build green. When viewed over a 200 year period, it would be suicidal not to build otherwise since we strongly believe that the current mode of building is not sustainable and needs to be changed immediately if we have any hope of living in a healthy world.

Below is an outline for a full Brownstone gut and rebuild along green principles:

The planning stages for fully greening a building:
In this stage you explore the possibilities and narrow them down to one plan of action. Time frame two weeks to two months.

1. Start bringing together building, design, expediting and financial team based on general ideas.
2. Establish overall goals and life plans in relation to the building.
3. Narrow down important features wanted for the building.
4. Establish budget.
5. Review possible tax credits and state or local financial incentives.
6. Finalize team members.
7. Create team plan within budget to accomplish goals.

Design Phase
In this stage you lay the groundwork for construction in terms of getting all paperwork and design plans made up. Time frame one month to three months.

1. Begin design of space.
2. Get design approved with DOB.
3. Get all permits in place.
4. Do needed surveys and site inspections.

The construction stages of a full building greening:
In this stage you actually start building. Time frame four months to one year.

Stage 1. Deconstruction
This would normally be called the demolition stage but green builders don’t demolish anything. We deconstruct the parts for future use. The Eco Brooklyn green building process attempts to reuse as much of the existing building as possible, either as components for that building or for another building.

Stage 2. Rebuild the Bones
Using salvaged wood and metal we strengthen the walls and floors. We also strengthen the roof in anticipation of a green roof and solar panels.

Stage 3. Insane Insulation
Using salvaged insulation we seal the exterior walls and roof with massive amounts of insulation and sealant. We also install super high efficiency fiberglass framed windows. Insulation along with other methods are also a large part of the soundproofing of the home.

Stage 4. Mechanics
We install high efficiency heating, plumbing and electric. We connect the solar hot water, solar PV and gray water systems.

Stage 5. Finish Work
Using non-chemical and locally built materials we paint the walls, install the bathrooms and kitchens, and redo the floors. We install the roof.

Stage 6. We hand over the keys
The home will now be useful for a couple generations at minimum.

The greening of a Brooklyn brownstone or co-op should not cost more than a normal renovation. We have been able to build at the same price or lower, although this can vary job to job depending on what we can salvage. Greening a building in New York and Brooklyn does encompass a different approach than normal building.

The first is the important consideration of tax incentives and incentives from local organizations. These rebates can be substantial. We work with a tax consultant experienced in this area to make sure all tax incentives are taken advantage of.

A longer perspective does need to be taken, though, since this is the whole premise of Built It Forward thinking. What is the cost of a normal renovation over ten years when you include:

  • Utility bills
  • Bad workmanship
  • Impact on the environment from waste and over consumption
  • Health impact on the inhabitants from toxins and bad ventilation
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