Situated on the banks of the East River, Brooklyn Navy Yard Building 268, the rusting skeleton of a former ship repair shed, will soon be transformed into “a cathedral of sustainability,” according to Baldev Duggal, founder of Duggal Visual Solutions, who holds a long-term lease on the site from the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Duggal will invest $7 million in the building, including $2 million from the city, and plans to blend his industrial printing company with sustainably-designed event spaces to create a new green hybrid called The Greenhouse.
Duggal said he stumbled head first into the green movement after viewing Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth about the effects of global warming on the environment. “That really got to me. I felt we had to start educating our own people to be green,” he said. “It’s good business. We’re not just putting on a show.”
Gregory Okshteyn, principal at Studios GO, has designed the project to reflect its industrial surroundings while synthesizing a complex program. “The program list is two or three pages long,” said Okshteyn. And it continues to evolve: “Mr. Duggal is always coming up with new ideas on a daily basis.” Beyond the industrial space, plans call for a green-product incubator, an eco-lounge with a cafeteria serving farm-to-table food for workers and visitors to the Navy Yard, and event spaces. “It’s ambitious,” said Okshteyn, but his firm, with a background in hospitality design, plans to emphasize the space’s social interaction. “Architects aren’t playing with program enough,” he said. “What if a building is a complete hybrid condition driven by an undefined program?”
To accommodate the programmatic flexibility that Duggal has imagined, Okshteyn kept the design simple. “We approached the building as a motherboard,” he said, “a shell that new technology can later be plugged into. We did the minimum to be the most effective. When things get too complicated, it’s hard for them to evolve.”
A new second floor will be inserted into the existing 30,000-square-foot structure and will be accessed by a grand staircase in the lobby, whose risers will double as the seating for an amphitheater. Duggal’s manufacturing operations are tucked under the soaring second floor in a sealed environment. Okshteyn plans to wrap an 18-foot-tall band of split-faced concrete blocks around the lower floor of the building to emphasize its industrial use, while the second floor, predominantly clad in unobstructed glass, soars 45 feet above. A north-facing wall will contain eight 20-foot-by-20-foot glass windows that can slide open to maximize connection to the water and provide dramatic views of the Williamsburg Bridge.
The Greenhouse’s sustainability goals are just as ambitious as the design. Duggal decided to forego LEED certification for the project but is pushing for a zero-carbon footprint that will allow the building to be completely self-sustaining. A variety of sustainable approaches, both simple and high tech, are planned for the building. Nearly 100 solar panels on the steel and concrete roof will provide electricity for lights inside The Greenhouse, sending surplus energy to its neighbors. Okshteyn is investigating applying solar film to the building’s windows and a 500-gallon tank could harvest rainwater for use in the building’s bathrooms. In addition to high-tech systems, existing glass will be reused in the building and even an 18th-century canon found on the site will be reclaimed as part of the final design.
Phase one of the Greenhouse is under construction and includes first floor manufacturing space and a shelled second floor. Okshteyn said site demolition and asbestos abatement has been completed, and the rest of the space must be ready by October, in time for new printing equipment to be delivered to Duggal.
Of his idea to combine active industrial space with public venues in a sustainable building, Duggal said, “I love to break tradition. Traditions are made to be broken, otherwise we would never have progress.”