The BrooklynCB1 Building

Originally ambitious to develop a fire stations’ efficiency while integrating community-based program, the Brooklyn Community Board One Building has developed into a small high-rise full of integrated program, based upon an organizational logic particular to the fire station.

Integrating a fire station, community center, and housing, the Brooklyn CB1 building inspires to become a model for a new typology: a community-civic hybrid. Why shouldn’t fire stations, police stations and civil offices be integrated with community-accessible programs?

Located at the eastern, waterfront, crux of the Williamsburg and Greenpoint neighborhoods, which comprise Brooklyn’s first community board, passer-byers will undoubtedly notice the 20 foot tall fire engine bay facing the street, its front and back face open, allowing a peer through and a vista of the Manhattan skyline on the other side. The engine bay, dotted with storage units and hugged by elevators and fire stairs to the floors above, is the visible totality of the first floor. All other program is lifted above in a steel-frame construction. Thus, to the passer-byer, the fire station becomes symbolic, a heralded element to the community, a foundation for stability and structure.

Upon entering the small elevator lobby, only separated from the intense engine bay by glass, the community member proceeds up the elevator, past the level of firemen’s quarters, and enters the community lobby. The community member passes chairs and tables with neighbors speaking politics, ignorant to the Manhattan-view behind them. He travels around the bathrooms, cladded in brick, and notices the continuity of the ground-level’s organization on the upper floors: spaces, private and public, shaped and organized as extrusions of truck lanes and intermediate spaces. The organization of the highly functional apparatus bay is the organizational logic for the programs above. A crisis center which doubles as a community engagement space is discussing the monthly community meeting, which will be held later that day at the community board offices level, on the floor below.

A clerk for the community board proceeds straight to the third floor to her cubicle on the floor of extended office space, curtain walls on either side, she finds herself on the crux of industrialized Brooklyn and commercialized Manhattan before sitting down at her desk. Members of the community board, as well as their local representative on the city council rush by, frantically stressed over a city funding issue she too passively observes to receive the full context. She emails her friend some of the building’s information, as she and her family are interested in moving out of East Williamsburg, closer to the waterfront. They find some of the apartments reasonably affordable for its location, a decent size for a family of four, but are skeptical of some the living conditions, kitchens, laundry and lounge spaces taken out of individual apartments and organized in collective spaces. They learn they’ll be living next to a few artists, who are renting out the studio apartments adjacent, and feel that exposure might be good for the kids.

Once they move in they also find that the art spaces a few floors below have child-oriented programs, and soon the two young children find themselves in a weekly after school art class, doing something that will shape their future, and something inspired by the culture of the community around them. The father doesn’t care as much for the art, instead prefers to work out at the gym with firefighters and others from the community. He’s happy that his kids have a nice view from their 8th floor apartment, activities to do down below, and happy his truck-loving five year old son gets his daily entertainment by seeing the fire trucks roll easily in and out on the street.

Building for Life: Biophilic Design

Stephen R. Kellert is a professor emeritus of social ecology and a senior research scholar at the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and is decorated with more honors and awards than would ever be rational. His work concerns the relation between humans and natural processes and features, more specifically how this relationship applies to design and development. His book, Building for Life, examines our society’s need for sustainable design in order to achieve a higher quality of life. He champions the ecological and cultural movement in biophilic design, design that appeals to the innate human affinity for natural processes and features.

By eliciting positive, valued experiences of nature within our built environment, we can repair the relationship between nature and ourselves, so that we might easier recognize our dependence on nature, and ultimately become more responsible in our treatment of it. Sustainability aside, biophilia is very much cultural, and is envisions a society of individuals more conscious of their surroundings, first through their natural environment, but also indirectly through their social environment . The Promenade Plantée, or the Bastille Viaduct, in Paris is cited as an effective example as it has  successfully “[restoring] contact with nature in an urban context”. He asserts that the project has revitalized the area socially and economically, while returning the city dweller to a more common interaction with nature. At the same time, Kellert is fast to critique the Bastille Viaduct’s failure to address “low environmental impact or ecological landscape design” and entertains the idea that the project may not be a great example. He similarly discusses the work of Frank Lloyd Wright whose prairie houses, most notably with Fallingwater, have demonstrated biophilic principles in establishing a sentimental harmony of human within nature. Yet, due to the cost, heavy use of materials, and limited energy efficiency, Kellert cannot quite call Frank Lloyd Wright the ideal ‘Biophile.’

Three degrees of our human affinity to nature can be considered when applying biophilia to a design: direct, indirect and symbolic. The direct is the hardest, as the built environment can only frame, and never be a direct experience with nature. Full nature does not anticipate the implantation of built works. A greenhouse or courtyard can frame a garden, a direct experience of nature, but the structure around it could simply not be. The indirect experience involves the existence of nature that is dependent on the maintenance and support of human efforts. A fern in a vase, or the fishtank at your dentists’ office are examples of natural environments confined and constrained where their vitality is dependent on third support. Lastly, the symbolic experience of nature, which is the most obvious within art, and has been pursued for as long as architecture has been practiced. Arabic floral patterns, Gothic sculptural details and rose windows, to the efforts of Frank Lloyd Wright to integrate structure into nature, all relate directly to understanding nature through abstraction, through symbol.

Kellert makes one significant assumption that forms the basis of his whole argument, that humanity has a natural tendency to revere what is resemblant of nature. Seemingly sensible in theory, the assumption appears to be false, as aesthetic tastes do exist that appreciate the quality of orthogonality and the hand-prints of man.

Biophilia Presentation.


There is No Need for New Buildings.

There is no real need to build new buildings

Periodical Name: BLUEPRINT

  • Introduction
    • With so many unused and abandoned buildings, why are we still building new ones? Today there is an abundance of buildings including factories, houses, incomplete construction sites, stores and ghost towns available to be readapted. Adaptive reuse is better for the environment, is an answer to poor living conditions, is an interesting design challenge for architects, and preserves the historical significance of existing structures.
  • Environmental Benefits
    • Demolition & Construction Waste
      • Injures cities images and memories (Cerkez 94)
      • “Demolition waste is a major part of industrial waste. In general, demolition waste is heterogeneous and consists to a large extent of building materials but includes even small amounts of hazardous substances.” (Trankler 21)
      • “Current waste generation from the construction and demolition industry (C&D industry) in Norway is about 1.25 million tonnes per year.” (Bergsdal 27)
      • “A 2001 study of Norwegian waste treatment facilities reported that approximately 44% of C&D waste was sent to sorting, and of this 33% was materials recycled, 22% was energy recovered, and 34% was landfilled. The numbers do not include rocks, gravel, soil and the like. Furthermore, the results revealed that the treatment method for about 40% of C&D waste in Norway was unspecified. Some waste was sent directly to recycling companies, and therefore not registered in the statistics, and some waste was also disposed of illegally (Statistics Norway 2002).” (Bergsdal 28)
    • Shipping new materials
      • Depending on what is available locally, many materials need to be transported to the site. There is really no way to avoid this in general, but renovating rather than completely demolishing and creating a new building creates less need for new material.
        • “In 2013, greenhouse gas emissions from transportation accounted for about 27% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, making it the second largest contributor of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions after the Electricity sector.” (“Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions.”)
    • Renovation Construction is much more difficult than new construction.
      • Take into consideration the cost of transporting the demolition and construction waste to a recycling facility.
      • The longer period of demo and construction time creates a longer period for laborers to be in work.
      • This longer period also creates more emissions into the atmosphere due to equipment used during demolition and construction.
    • Rich Clients who don’t care about sustainability
      • Sustainability is the “new”, “cool” thing in architecture. Even though sustainable techniques have been around for almost two decades.
        • The client’s building will be judged based on how sustainable it is.
          • If it does not use sustainable techniques, the client will be ridiculed for ignoring the need for sustainable strategies in architecture and ignoring the need for taking care of our planet.
        • Sustainable technologies are considered advanced technologies in architecture.
  • Economic Benefits
    • Less time under construction.
      • When demolition and construction are needed, a project will be under construction for a longer period of time.
        • labor costs. Approximately $35,000 salary per worker (47-2061 Construction Laborers)
      • There are certain historic rehabilitation tax credits offered to those who preserve the history of their site. This helps to offset the cost of renovation.
  • Low income housing
    • About 200,000 rental housing units are destroyed annually. Renting is one of the most viable options for low income people (Joint Center for Housing Studies).
    • “Unable to afford the higher rents for newer suburban units, many lowest-income renters remain stuck in older, lower-quality apartments close to the urban core with limited access to well-paying jobs and other advancement opportunities. Without more production of affordable rentals in the suburbs and expanded community development efforts in center cities, the economic prospects of the nation’s most disadvantaged are certain to worsen.” (Joint Center for Housing Studies)
    • developers continue to focus on the high end housing market segment, ignoring the many renters who are unable to pay (Joint Center for Housing Studies)
    • Albeit challenging, adaptive reuse is an option for the shortage of low-income housing.
    • Adaptive reuse projects, because they are often sited in older neighborhoods or even historic districts, can situate residents much closer to centers of employment. (Schalmo 9)
    • Adaptive reuse projects usually are able to receive “low income housing tax credit” and/or “historic rehabilitation tax credit” to offset the cost of developing low income housing. (Schalmo 10)
  • History Preservation/Respecting site
    • “When a building of historic merit is preserved or restored for adaptive reuse, its cultural energy is also recycled. Old buildings preserve the local culture and identity and create a sense of belonging. In a way, we recycle embodied human resource energy along with material energy. We bring alive the past to be a part of the future, creating valuable connections through time.” (Cerkez 94)
    • “Effective vernacular design requires consideration of the cultural and historical character of the places where buildings and other constructions occur…The distinctive identity of a place is affirmed by designing in relation to a place’s social and historical elements.” (Kellert, 165). The very nature of adaptive reuse lends itself to creating an environment that has a sense of place and history. Unlike new design, reuse projects don’t have to try and fit in- they are already part of the community.  
  • Architectural design challenge
    • Using abandoned or existing buildings creates interesting, compelling design challenges for architects.
      • This constraint allows designers to create new innovations and solve problems while also respecting the history of the site.
      • Architects give these buildings new life, new meaning, and new function while respecting what went on before their project. Recycling the “cultural energy” of what was there before.
      • This allows design to blend into the language of its surroundings, while still doing something new.
      • This kind of work would not merely be renovation, the entire purpose of the building would be redefined to become whatever our society needs most.
    • Branded Buildings (such as CVS or McDonalds) do not have to be created completely new.
      • An example: A CVS that was a converted old movie theater. It kept the integrity of the old movie theater while also still having its brand. Located in the Palisades, Washington, D.C.

        CVS|Pharmacy, Palisades, Washington, D.C.
        CVS|Pharmacy, Palisades, Washington, D.C.
      • Demolishing a branded building such as a McDonald’s
        • Renovating would allow the business to stay open while renovations are being completed.
        • Less time under construction, rather than taking the time for demolition and the construction of an entire building.
      • Branding can be created while also respecting the history of a building.
        • Take the CVS occupying an old theater as an example.
        • Or take a larger example of the Bastard Store, designed by Studiometrico in Milan. The shopfront, offices, warehouse, and skate bowl are located within a 1950’s cinema. It stays true to as much of the cinema as was possible, but also reflects the brand’s gnarly attitude towards snowboarding. The juxtaposition of the prior program and the current program is an idea that can be appreciated and is much more complex than if they had torn down the cinema and built a new, sleek snowboarding headquarters.

          Bastard Store, Studiometrico, Milan, Italy, 2011 Photo Cred: Giuliano Berarducci
          Bastard Store, Studiometrico, Milan, Italy, 2011
          Photo Cred: Giuliano Berarducci
  • Conclusion
    • Sustainability is becoming more of a requirement than an option.
    • There is no need for new buildings because we can effectively reuse the buildings that we already have.
    • Adaptive reuse projects are a better solution than new building because of… [summarize main points]
  • Architectural Examples:
    • 1. Residential
      • Grainger Place, 2000
      • The Landmark Group
      • Low income housing converted from an old school
      • won awards for historical preservation development
    • 2. Museum
      Photo: Iñigo Bujedo Aguirre Architect: Herzog & de Moren
      Photo: Iñigo Bujedo Aguirre
      Architect: Herzog & de Moren
      • Caixia Forum, Madrid, 2007
      • Herzog & de Moren
      • combined an old abandoned electrical station with new construction
    • 3. Commercial
      • Bastard Store, Studiometrico, 2011
        • 1950’s Cinema large enough for the store
        • They retained as much of the character of the old building as possible.


Baer, William C. “Empty Housing Space: An Overlooked Resource.” Policy Studies Journal 8.2 (1979): 220-27. Web.

Bergsdal, Håvard, Rolf André Bohne, and Helge Brattebø. “Projection of Construction and Demolition Waste in Norway.” Journal of Industrial Ecology 11.3 (2007): 27-39. Web.

Bullen, Peter A. “Adaptive Reuse and Sustainability of Commercial Buildings.” Facilities 25.1/2 (2007): 20-31. Web.

Power, A. “Housing and Sustainability: Demolition or Refurbishment?”Proceedings of the ICE – Urban Design and Planning 163.4 (2010): 205-16. Web.

“47-2061 Construction Laborers.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 25 Mar. 2015. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

Joint Center for Housing Studies. “America’s Rental Housing: Homes for a Diverse Nation.” (Publication of the Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University). HARVARD JOINT CENTER FOR HOUSING STUDIES, 8 Mar. 2006. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.

Kellert, S. R. 2005. Chapter 4: Biophilic design in Building for Life: Designing and Understanding the Human-Nature Connection.Washington, DC: Island Press. pp. 123-177.

Power, Anne. “Does Demolition or Refurbishment of Old and Inefficient Homes Help to Increase Our Environmental, Social and Economic Viability?” Energy Policy 36.12 (2008): 4487-501. Web.

SCHALMO, Barbara Elwood. “COVERING THE COST OF HISTORIC PRESERVATION IN AFFORDABLE HOUSING: Exploring the Adequacy of the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit to Cover the Increased Development Cost of Adaptive Reuse

“Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Transportation Sector Emissions. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

Projects for Affordable Housing.” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, May 2008. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

Tränkler, Josef O.v., Isa Walker, and Max Dohmann. “Environmental Impact of Demolition Waste — An Overview on 10 Years of Research and Experience.” Waste Management 16.1-3 (1996): 21-26. Web.

Re-Introducing of Neglected Urban Sites

Harvard Design Magazine

Construction focuses on two site scenarios; an open site with minimal clearing before beginning construction and an existing site that likely has a building on it that must first be demolished. Aside from being cheaper, the former option is also the easier of the two from a construction point of view. This mentality has prompted increasingly unprecedented levels of construction every year, even in the years of a slowly growing economy following the recession. The US Department of Housing and Urban Developments estimates over 1,103,000 residential construction permits will be issued in the 2015 calendar year, a roughly 5% increase from last year (US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development). This rate is implying an unsustainable trend; discarding the older building in favor of their newer counterparts. Enter option three in the initial site scenario debate; an existing building subject to adaptive reuse. The modification and ultimate reuse of existing buildings in an urban context is pivotal for sustainable growth of New York City in both the immediate and long term planning conversations.

Lowe Campbell Ewald Offices by Neumann Smith Architects
Lowe Campbell Ewald Offices by Neumann Smith Architects

Between the 1930’s and 1960’s, Robert Moses was responsible for creating much of the gridwork that still defines New York as a city today. In addition, he was responsible for the creation of countless projects, with a total cost of over $184 billion in today’s dollars, all of which were new construction (Goldberger). During this timeframe, Moses was not alone on widespread construction with many developers undertaking transitional projects and constructing higher and larger buildings. This massive influx of buildings is now ageing and is currently in one of two states. The first option is that these roughly fifty-year-old buildings simply no longer exist. This is most commonly the case of properties that had fallen into disrepair or were no longer large enough to meet the demands they we facing and were ultimately replaced by a building that was able to meet those needs. The second option is that the building is still standing, often in its original condition or with minimal updates over the years and possibly uninhabited; both of these represent a misusage of resources. Buildings and construction represent the largest portion of the US produced CO2 emissions and are greater than that of the other two sectors, industrial and transportation, combined (Architecture 2030). Much of this pollution, as well as waste material not counted in the previous statistic, stems from new construction and demolition of buildings.

The selection and active decision to choose existing buildings for adaptive reuse and modification to meet both current client and environmental needs solves both of these problems. By starting with and simply modifying an existing building there is a greatly lowered amount of initial construction costs and wastes. In a city like New York, its also likely to expedite the construction time and ease some of the logistics associated with the large infrastructure needed for the early/structural parts of the projects, e.g. those associated with pouring concrete slabs, structural steel framing, and masonry walls. Some may feel limited by working with an existing building, yet all of the same tactics that exist for new construction exist for adaptive reuse; vertical expansion, horizontal expansion, densification selective removal, etc. Not only is this avoiding higher costs for new materials, but also greatly diminishes the initial carbon impacts from construction; something that takes an estimated 20-30 years for even a green building to offset. The positive environmental impact can be even greater when combined with integrating new sustainable technology into an adaptive reuse situation.

SAS Hall Demolition in Raleigh, NC
SAS Hall Demolition in Raleigh, NC

The reuse of these buildings is also beneficial to the community. Many cities face issues of regionally high levels of uninhabited and under cared for buildings, New York included. The environment of a city or neighborhood can be greatly improved simply by adaptive reuse and inhabitation. Aside form removing the holes from an otherwise vibrant urban fabric, repurposing buildings into a new life allows for a structure to meet the most current needs of a situation. Jane Jacob’s work The Death and Life of Great American Cities often skirts around the idea that the community revitalization of formerly lacking areas of a neighborhood, when carried out by the residents, is almost always better than the initial planned usage of the building. Who could know a better usage for an uninhabited structure better than people who eat, work, and live within a block from it? Many projects within the city have repurposed previously industrial sites into new programs as diverse as; office space, residences, breweries, urban farms, and even concert halls with minimally invasive changes (Schropfer). The re-utilization of a building also allows the history of a site to be carried with it into its second life and provides a level of outward continuity for the immediate neighbors.

Tate Modern by Herzog & DeMuron
Tate Modern by Herzog & DeMuron

While new construction may still be the first and only avenue many developers pursue, this too is not a flawless system. Jane Jacobs stated it best by saying; “We expect too much of new buildings, and too little of ourselves”, something that is undoubtedly relevant to the question of urban re-use. Reinvesting time, planning, and resources into the second life of a building is pivotal is urban sustainability and redevelopment. New buildings have the same set of problems that an existing building may face, but also lack the innate historical integration into the site and have a lower potential for diminished environmental impact. Rather than a universal call to action, this should serve as a reminder. Carl Elefante said it most succinctly, “the greenest building is the one already built,” no matter where it may be. There are undoubtedly situations where utilizing an existing building is not beneficial to the project as a whole, but far more times where it is simply an overlooked option in the planning phase.


Works Cited

US Department of Housing and Urban Development. New Residential Construction in September 2015. Washington: n.p., 2015. US Census Bureau News. US Department of Commerce, 20 Oct. 2015. Web. <>.

Goldberger, Paul. “Robert Moses, Master Builder, Is Dead at 92.” Editorial. The New York Times 30 July 1981: n. pag. The Learning Network. The New York Times, 2010. Web. <>.

U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2012 Release, Table 18 Carbon Dioxide Emissions by Sector and Source;

“The Environmental Value of Building Reuse.” The National Trust for Historic Preservation, 24 Jan. 2012. Web. <>.

Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House, 1961. Print.

Schropfer, Thomas. Ecological Urban Architecture: Qualitative Approaches to Sustainability. Basel: Birkhauser, 2012. Print.