SUSTAINABILITY

The Green Garage is a deep exploration of sustainability in a community setting. Because we care about our relationship with the Earth and the ecosystems we’re a part of, we take our responsibility to reduce our ecological footprint seriously. It’s part of our triple bottom line approach to business leadership, which is rooted in environmental stewardship, community wellbeing, and economic resilience. 

SUSTAINABILITY

The Green Garage is a deep exploration of sustainability in a community setting. Because we care about our relationship with the Earth and the ecosystems we’re a part of, we take our responsibility to reduce our ecological footprint seriously. It’s part of our triple bottom line approach to business leadership, which is rooted in environmental stewardship, community wellbeing, and economic resilience. 

Below is a high level summary of some of the many sustainable systems, design features, and processes that make the Green Garage one of the greenest workspaces on the planet.

  • Solar PV panels (50) to generate electricity
  • Solar thermal panels (10) to heat the building 
  • Super insulated building envelope
  • Geothermal HVAC
  • ERV / natural ventilation
  • Michigan native plant gardens
  • Stormwater management and rainwater harvesting
  • Indoor bicycle parking and shower
  • Multi-stream recycling
  • On site composting
  • Low flow sinks and toilets
  • High performance windows
  • Solatubes for supplemental sunlight
  • Building material reuse

ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT

The Green Garage operates at approximately 10% the waste, water, and energy of a traditional office building. We are able to achieve these goals thanks to our forward looking building systems, highlighted above, but also thanks to the everyday care, consideration, and participation of the businesses that call us home.

Each month, we track our community’s waste, water, and energy consumption data, which we compare against an industry standard for office buildings. We use these data to hold ourselves accountable and to make continuous improvements to our operations, whether that’s adding new solar panels or working with our businesses-in-residence to find ways to reduce the amount of disposable material that comes into the building. Above is a sample of some recent charts. Find more here.

BUILDING GREEN RENOVATION

Our home at 4444 Second Avenue is an historic auto dealership built in 1921. (For more about the building’s history, click here.) Between 2008 and 2010, we deconstructed and reconstructed the building guided by a creative approach that targeted high energy efficiency performance goals (less than 20% of normal office buildings) while at the same time using a low-waste approach for building materials.  

The high energy efficiency performance design rested on a fundamental strategy of first reducing our energy demands through conservation, then meeting the remaining demand by renewable and lowest carbon means. Some of our conservation methods include a high performance building thermal envelope with an almost 100 R roof, extremely low air infiltration, and low-e windows. Our high efficiency and low carbon methods for meeting this lower demand include 50 solar PV panels, 10 solar thermal panels, geothermal heating and cooling, solar tube lighting, energy recovery and natural ventilation. 

The low waste approach targeted two overarching goals: to reuse 90% of the materials from the original building, and to source 75% of the materials brought into the building from the US waste stream. Achieving the first goal meant that over the course of the entire construction process, only a dumpster and a half’s worth of material ended up being thrown away; everything else was either repurposed in the building or recycled. Repurposed materials include the building’s original steam pipes, which were transformed into our main staircase, as well as the original exterior windows, which were recut and reframed into the panes of our interior greenhouse.

Achieving the second goal meant that we were able to save additional materials from entering the waste stream, including most of our furniture, which came from a Detroit Public Schools warehouse, and the wood we used to create our floor, which was harvested from fallen trees around metro Detroit.

Additional green features include rainwater management, with two large cisterns used for capturing rainwater to water our gardens. Around our property, we also planted Michigan native gardens that promote and support biodiversity.

To rehabilitate the Green Garage building, we were privileged to work with a forward-thinking team of designers and contractors and hundreds of generous, hard working volunteers, who together helped us turn our beautiful 1921 home into one of the greenest historic buildings in the Midwest.

GREEN ALLEY

Our approach to sustainability stewardship goes beyond the walls of our building and extends into our historic Cass Corridor neighborhood. We worked with our neighbors at Motor City Brewing Works and Midtown Detroit to create Detroit’s first green alley, a lush pedestrian pathway behind our building that reduces harmful runoff to the Detroit River.

Built in 2009, the Midtown Green Alley represents an early instance in southeast Michigan of green infrastructure, where eco-conscious landscaping is used to help mitigate the harmful effects of traditional stormwater infrastructure. In Detroit, our combined sewer system means that during a heavy rainfall, stormwater mixes with graywater from sanitary sewers, which is then discharged into the Detroit River, creating unhealthy conditions for us all. The Green Alley employs a convex surface, permeable pavement, and native gardens to divert rainwater to the water table instead, reducing the amount of stormwater that enters the sewer system. The native plantings also attract pollinators, supporting a diverse and thriving local ecosystem, and help reduce urban heat island effect.

We conceived of the Green Alley as a demonstration center for this kind of infrastructure, as well as a way to make our neighborhood more walkable and connected. We’re heartened that in the twelve years since its construction, it continues to inspire others and serve as a vital pedestrian path in Detroit’s Cass Corridor. If you’re interested in a more detailed look at the alley’s history, design, and construction, check out the Green Alley page on our wiki.