August 30, 2008I am on the verge of buying a multi-use building in Brooklyn that has a storefront on ground floor and 2 apts. above that needs a total gut renovation. I’d like to do the renovation using green design principles, materials etc. and am looking for both guidance as well as information re: whether the city offers any low-interest loans, grants, or tax rebates for me to do this work. I think I have an architect but may also need contractors as well as a good building inspector. Any referrals you can provide for people familiar with such projects using a LOW budget (ideally under $50,000) are much appreciated! Sincerely, Wylie Goodman
Wylie, Thanks for contacting us and apologies for the delay in responding to your inquiry. This sounds like a great project and there are definately a lot of green options in terms of materials and appliances. In general, you can minimize the environmental impact of the project by minimizing the production of waste material and the acquisition of new materials for the project. This can be done by trying to do the following: 1. Reusing as much of the existing structure as possible. This may involve restoring interior finishes instead of replacing them, or removing them carefully so they can be used in other places within the project. 2. Recycle as much of the waste as possible and use as much recycled material as possible. It is not possible to do this without producing some waste and consuming some new materials. Look for ways to make the waste material avaiable for reuse on other projects and for ways to acquire materials that came from other projects in the City. There are many organizations that help people find previously used materials for use in projects such as Wastematch and the Green Worker’s Cooperative in the Bronx. Pre-used materials such as pre-war doors, details, and fixturescan have a unique charm that may bring value and style to the project in addition to being environmentally beneficial. Appliances are probably the only thing that might be better to use new because today’s generation of appliances and mechanical systems are generally more energy efficient and will save more energy over their lifetime than their manufacture uses. 3. If you must use newly manufactured materials (and for some things you certainly will), look for materials that are made with an eye toward the environmental impact of their manufacture and use. Use materials that minimize use of toxic materials, that are built to last so that they will not have to be replaced soon, that are made from renewable resources such as fast-growing trees or recycled materials. Things that use energy or other resources over their useful life are the only exception to the rule that reuse is better than buying new. Don’t use old appliances unless you have some information on their energy consumption. In general, old appliances won’t be as efficient as ones you can buy fairly cheaply today. As for incentives, there are a few places you can go. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has a number of energy-centered incentives. You can find them at. There is also a nationwide database of energy-related incentives called the Database for State Renewable Energy Incentives. New York City also has a tax credit for green roofs (if that works for this project) that you can find more about from the NYC Dept. of Finance.