Net-zero building unveiled in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach neighborhood

Brighton Beach net zero building
© Margaret Badore

A ribbon cutting ceremony for a green apartment building was held today in Brighton Beach, on the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated this neighborhood in southern Brooklyn. The date is a symbolic reminder of the importance of building in a way that contributes minimally to climate change and that is resilient in the face of extreme weather events.

Architect Robert Scarano said the building project, called Bright ’N Green, was under construction when the storm hit, but didn’t suffer serious damage. In fact, he said the net-zero building was able to provide power to its neighbors, who ran extension cords to their homes.

Brighton Beach net zero building© Margaret Badore
The building, which is located along one of Brighton Beach’s alley-like lanes, uses a diverse array of green technologies, in an effort to create a building that can not only generate enough energy to serve its tenants' needs, but to also sell power back to the grid. The building is faced with solar panels and has a geothermal system made by EarthLinked Technologies, and Scarano also plans to install wind turbines. Even without the wind power, Scarano said that the six-apartment building has “a negative $6,000 electricity bill” per month. In other words, they're already able to sell energy back to the grid. Scarano has promised tenants or future owners will never have to pay energy bills.

The building occupies a former brownfield, which contained hazardous levels of lead. Today, the site earned the Green Site Awards from the New York City Mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation.

Brighton Beach net zero building© Margaret Badore

The individual units feature hardwood floors reclaimed from shipping containers, ultra-efficient appliances and an advanced air filtration system. The counter tops in the bathrooms and kitchens feature IceStone surfaces, which use recycled glass and are made locally in Brooklyn.

Brighton Beach net zero building© Margaret Badore

The plumbing system also makes use of water efficient technologies. Gennaro Brooks-Church, a green building expert, helped to design the grey water system, which features a number of reclaimed materials. Rainwater is collected from the balconies and roof, and treated with a bio-filter system. Part of this system is visible on the ramp into the building, through a salvaged piece of glass—rocks, plants and soil serve as a filtration system that also doubles as landscaping.

Brighton Beach net zero building© Margaret Badore

The roof features a hot tub and a small space for container gardens—which is planted with vegetables and herbs.

Scarano said the building is still a work in progress, although four of the units are already occupied and other units have been listed on Air BnB. Over time, Scarano hopes the roof and walls will be engulfed in a living layer of plants, which will further insulate the building.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the Bright ’N Green building is how eager Scarano is to share the work with the public. Data from the building are being made available on the building’s website, along with many other details about the technologies used.

“Anyone could knock it off,” joked Scarano. Clearly that’s a good thing, as the building serves as a working example for many eco-friendly technologies. “It’s a totally open book.”

Net-zero building unveiled in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach neighborhood
The Bright ’N Green building is an experimental effort to combine sustainable technologies.

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