As any of the thousands of cyclists in the five boro bike tour could attest, it was a beautiful day to be out and about. We first stopped at 319 Fourth Street in Park Slope, where Seth told us how the house and his partnership with the landowners came about. Despite being only 16 feet wide, this new construction feels pretty expansive (one benefit of starting from scratch). Ductwork for central heat & A/C is neatly hidden away in the floor plena. Top floor balconies on the front and back provide additional outdoor space (there’s also a small backyard shared with a garden apartment). On the outside, the four story house blends in with the other buildings on the block. The windows are traditional sizes and proportions. The fibreglass cornice looks original (albeit newly restored). The lower floor facade has brownstone stucco (which is typical–very few brownstones are actually built of brown stone…). And the custom curved brick framing the windows adds a nice touch.
From there we crossed the Gowanus Cancel into Carroll Gardens. After removing our shoes, we went in to 22 Second Street. Gennaro explained that his goal for the retrofit–and all of his projects–was zero: zero waste, zero new materials, zero energy. Though he didn’t achieve zero, he managed to use almost entirely salvaged materials (save the windows, appliances and cabinets). His aspirations for the house (still a work in progress) include a greywater system, PV panels and a natural swimming pool in the back garden. I was particularly interested to see the use of clay plaster walls to regulate moisture (as a hygroscopic material, clay absorbs humidity–especially important when one relies on natural ventilation for cooling). We also saw the green roof, which hosts strawberries and herbs, along with bee hives. He and his family were great sports for letting us traipse through their home, which provided a great counterpoint to the first tour.