The Green Brownstone: An Oxymoron?


It was during a springtime stroll past rows of charming brownstones shaded by big flowering trees that made me fall in love with my alma mater, Boston University. I love the aristocratic flourishes and the feeling that generations of residents have added to the building’s history and character. And for two years of college, I adored living in a beautifully rehabbed brownstone, complete with bay windows and crown molding. But like many older buildings, brownstones aren’t always the most energy efficient.

Which is why I was eager to read about Eco Brooklyn, Inc. in a New York Times article. The green contractor uses guerrilla green-building techniques to balance budget and economic concerns when rehabbing buildings. In other words, they salvage old building materials rather than buying swanky new ones.

The goal of Eco Brooklyn’s founder, Gennaro Brooks-Church, is to achieve a “zero-brownstone.” That means zero waste, zero new building materials, and zero energy (thanks to improved energy-efficiency). Several other architects and contractors mentioned in the piece have similar goals as well.

Obviously, there’s still a significant investment of time and money required in rehabbing an older home, but there are also federal, state, and city tax incentives for making improvements such as energy-efficient windows, solar electric systems, and geothermal heat pumps. So, maybe “green” and “brownstone” aren’t a contradiction in terms.

Image: rutlo