More Video Oral Histories — Tom and Peggy Brennan

In March I wrote a post about some video oral histories of the Green Garage prepared by Liz Riedman, a Green Garage volunteer and Anthropology Master's student. Those featured 3 of the founders, Don and Mitzi Carter and Helen Bradley. Today I'm adding two more, this time featuring Tom and me. Once again, these are brief, but provide a nice look at some of the thinking behind the design of the Green Garage.  … [Read more...]

Video Oral Histories of the Green Garage

Last month, Liz Riedman, an Anthropology Master's student at Wayne State University, interviewed three of the original founders of the Green Garage, Helen Bradley and Don and Mitzi Carter. The interviews were recorded and are below for you to listen to. The videosĀ are brief, each not more than 5 minutes, but they do provideĀ a sense of the original thought behind the Green Garage project, and give insight into several key design decisions that make the Green Garage what it is today. Hope you enjoy them! And thanks, Liz, for helping us embark on our oral history journey. … [Read more...]

A Sustainable Kitchen

Our kitchen is finished. It was designed by Kevin Gardner (who recently graduated from the College for Creative Studies in Design) and constructed by Jason Peet. Here's the finished product: We wanted this kitchen to meet the same requirements as the rest of the building, with most of the components coming from the US waste stream. The dark cabinets we found on Craigslist. They were purchased from a home in Troy that was going through a remodel. They are 1956 steel cabinets that were originally yellow before we painted them. They fit our space beautifully. The maple countertops came from Cooley High School. Their original use was countertops for the shop classes. Jason sanded them down to produce a beautiful finish. The dishwasher is new. It's a high-efficiency … [Read more...]

Status Update, and Why It’s Taking So Long

We're still here! Construction continues, despite our best efforts to wrap this thing up. Some of the issues involve getting materials and people all together at the same time, some have to do with chains-of-events that we have no control over, and some things are simply taking longer than expected. Anyone who has done construction in their home can relate to this. I thought I'd give you just one example of a system that is held up by one small bug: water. When we designed our heating and cooling system, many of you know that we first reduced the load needing heating and cooling by following passive design techniques: super-insulating the building, adding lots of natural light and allowing for as much natural ventilation as possible. The passive elements took care of 90% of our heating … [Read more...]

Setting up the heating/cooling system

Last week and into this week we've been getting some things in place for our heating and cooling system. You might remember our somewhat complicated system: solar thermal panels on the roof of the annex heat up the water in tanks (also in the annex), and that water runs via pex tubing under our floors to provide radiant heat in the winter. In the summer, the panels are, for the most part, covered, and the water in the tanks is cooled during the night for daytime use. Our back-up system for a couple of months aof the year is an Altherma heat pump. Perhaps you're familiar with the diagram below: The radiant tubing is under our floor, the panels are on the roof, and now we are getting ready to get some water into the tanks. We found our 2 insulated tanks on They … [Read more...]

Back again

I'm back to writing this blog after a hiatus of about 8 months. Part of the reason for the break was the busy construction schedule, but the main reason was the fact that I felt that adding a blog to website reporting and facebook updates seemed....well, a little redundant. Recently, however, I've spoken with people who indicated that not only did they read the blog, but that it came right up near the top of Google results when typing in 'green garage detroit.' Interesting. In addition, they mentioned that for many people, when they want to know the latest that's happening somewhere, they look for the blog as the best information source. I was curious, so I opened my blog today, dusted aside the cobwebs, looked at the stats, and found that a surprising number of people are still reading it … [Read more...]


It's October and we're making steady progress. As you can see, the old windows in front have come down, and will be reused for interior offices. Because nothing is leaving the building, as stuff is removed from the walls and ceiling, it is piling up inside to the point where it is sometimes hard to make your way along the floor. One part of this project that I'm sure is not typical is our near-obsessive dedication to salvaging wood, and that requires removing every nail that is in every piece. Here is the pile of wood requiring nail removal as of last week: We have had a dedicated group of volunteers - and some paid employees - who are removing nails hour after hour, day after day. We are going to have to take them out for one serious dinner when this whole thing is over. … [Read more...]

Full construction mode (and a little history lesson)

We're in full construction mode right now, and you don't need to enter the building to sense the scale of what is happening. Walking down Second Avenue, you hear the sounds of construction a couple of blocks away. As you approach, the smell of welding and drilling fills the air. Once inside, it's difficult to hold any sort of extensive conversation because crews are working in pretty much every area within the building (so we speak with a lot of pauses). If you are ambitious enough to open your laptop and attempt work, as Joe, Tom and Kirsten do every day, you need to clean off the grit before packing it up at the end of the day. I tend to record everything on film and get it up at home! So let me get you up to date. Last week we began opening up the beautiful front windows that had … [Read more...]

June 11 Construction Update

The main action right now involves alley and the windows. If you live near to the alley, you are well aware that it's in full construction mode right now. This past week Redford Cement finished removing the cement and grading both the alley and the back of our property. Classic Landscape stepped in next to apply the sub-base. First they laid down a permeable geo-textile material that looks like a tarp. It will allow water to filter through but will prevent the stones from becoming embedded into the clay. Next, Classic Landscape had to move this pile of stones into the alley.... using this little front-end loader. By Friday morning, the alley looked like this: Smaller stones came next. This is a good spot to mention that this is back-breaking work for these … [Read more...]

Mid-May update

t's time for an update. I have to apologize for the lack of posts -- I was knocked down for a few weeks with a persistent virus that prevented me from getting out and doing some reporting. But my immune system has kicked back in, and I do have some information I can share. In a sense, it's been a good time to be gone, because we have continued to deliberately slow the pace of work at the GG until we receive Brownfield accreditation. Once we receive accreditation, and are declared obsolete, we will move quickly to finish the building by early fall. The good news is that we have 2 Brownfield meetings scheduled in the next couple of weeks, one with a sub-committee of the City Council (on May 20th), and one with the entire City Council (May 25th), which should be the end of the … [Read more...]

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