Not only is Brooklyn Bridge Park one of the most sustainable parks in the world, but it is now home to New York's only net-zero educational center. Donated by the Beautiful Earth Group and designed by Gensler, the small off-grid complex made from three used shipping containers is called the New York Center for Sustainable Energy and opened in Pier 1 last month. The Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservatory uses the center as its base for the dozens of educational programs and classes that it offers, and it houses an EV charging station for the small park maintenance vehicles. The center is a fantastic example of sustainable architecture, and it's also an important learning resource for the millions of students in the city. Kara Gilmour, Director of Education at the park, recently gave us a tour of the center -- hit the jump for a look inside!
Nearly every piece used to construct the center is seeing its second life. The 40 foot long shipping containers and windows are all recycled, and the steel doors and awnings were cut out from the containers themselves. Benches are being built out of massive wooden 300-year-old beams that washed ashore. A 5.6kw solar array mounted on top of the center powers the entire place, and the standard solar battery pack where the energy is stored has never been maxed out. The array’s base is constructed from simple metal fencing materials. When Beautiful Earth Group originally created the charging station for its own vehicles, they wanted to create a structure that could be easily replicated and moved anywhere. As such, nothing in the design is custom made.
The classroom portion of the center consists of two of the shipping containers placed side by side, with the front container opening up to face the park via three large rolldown doors. Inside is spacious and light filled, with plenty of room for tables and chairs. A back door opens to a small porch that connects with the EV charging station. The vehicles can drive directly into the container to plug-in. The station is equipped with a normal charger that fully charges the vehicle over night or there is an ultra strong charger that can juice a car to the max in just one hour. A row of charging outlets is located along the back of the station, letting the park vehicles drive right up and plug-in.
The Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservatory has hosted classes since the park’s inception, but NYSCE is the first indoor base they’ve ever had. Classes range from sustainability tours of the park itself to “Seining: The River Wild,” where students wade into the river to catch the sea creatures — including seahorses! — living in the East River. Gilmour says its an awe-inspiring experience for the kids, most of whom have no idea that such amazing natural habitats exist in the city.
The Center doesn’t have set hours, but educational programming takes place almost every day of the week. Gilmour was more than happy to give curious passers-by a tour of the space, so next time you’re in the park, swing by to see if it’s open!
All images © Jessica Dailey for Inhabitat