For the first time in over 200 years, the public can now enter the 300-acre Brooklyn Navy Yard thanks to BLDG 92. The center celebrates the history of the Yard with a collection of galleries and exhibits that highlight the innovation that has taken place within the gates over the years. The building itself boasts many sustainable design aspects and is in the process of receiving LEED Platinum certification.
BLDG 92 was originally constructed in 1857 by T.U. Walter, the same architect who designed the cast iron dome of the Capitol building. It served as domestic quarters within the Navy Yard. While much of the inside of the building was gutted, the original shell was structurally sound, allowing for adaptive reuse of the space. Thanks to watercolor renderings discovered in the archives, Beyer Blinder & Belle architects in association with workshop/apd were able to restore the building to its original form.
Archived visual plans also indicated a large, 19th century underground aqueduct that engineers were able to utilize. A rainwater capture system occupies a 20-foot section of the aqueduct and provides 100 percent of the water for toilet flushing. Additionally, an open-loop geothermal system uses the earth as a method to heat and cool the building. Water is pumped from 100 feet underground, used for AC or heating and then returned to a different well.
To increase space to allow for large, well-lit classrooms, a new section made from 24 modular units was added to the historic structure in October 2010 by one of the Yard’s tenants. A large solar screen designed and manufactured by Ferra Designs minimizes solar gain during the warmer months. The digitally fabricated, laser-cut steel screen was rendered from a photograph of the launch of the USS Brooklyn in 1936, honoring the Yard’s role as one of the most important ship building centers in the country. Similarly, the front gate was manufactured in the same way from a photograph of submarine chasers under fire in 1918.
Building on the center’s homage to the Yard’s naval history as well as its commitment to sustainability, the floors of the building and several benches located in the courtyard are constructed from recycled teak wood salvaged from the decks of the 1937 USS North Carolina.
The building is a symbol of innovative use of recycled materials, regionally sourced materials and local labor. It is composed of 36 percent of recycled building materials and 32 percent of materials are regionally sourced. Seventy-eight percent of the wood comes from sustainably maintained forests, and 91 precent of construction waste was diverted from landfills by sorting and recycling construction debris. Plans are in place for a 40,000 square-foot rooftop urban farm that is slated to open in spring 2012. Hopes are that such initiatives will draw increasing numbers of green businesses to call the Yard home, which already houses the offices and workshops of some 30 sustainable businesses.
Upon entering BLDG 92, a large, 22,000 pound anchor welcomes visitors, reminding of the history of manufacturing that took place within the Yard. Opposite the anchor, a wind-solar street lamp, the LUMI-SOLAIR by Yard tenant Duggal Energy Solutions, closes the loop and provides an example of the innovation still taking place today. Long known as a “Can-do Yard,” Brooklyn Navy currently houses over 275 businesses, 30 of which are green, and employs around 5,800 workers — most of whom live in Brooklyn. By opening BLDG 92, which includes educational activities and a cafe, the hope is that it will create a lively, dynamic environment that inspires interaction and collaboration and promotes the skilled trades.
The exhibitions and galleries are designed for people of all ages to enjoy. A well-balanced mix of historical documentation, oral histories and interactive activities keep things moving while educating visitors about the past and present. A particularly innovative attraction is a sustainability focused scavenger hunt. Upon arriving, visitors are given a map with a bar code that serves as the key. Throughout the center, various plaques offer information regarding aspects of the building’s green construction. After visiting all four floors and exploring the front courtyard, a room marked “A Sustainable Story” equipped with computers invites visitors to see how many of the 18 sustainability points they hit. For those who find they are missing one, a bathroom break may just provide the final win!
All images © Amanda Silvana Coen for Inhabitat