Green Garage Detroit – Takes Re-use in Renovation to Another Level

Nov 15, 2012

Just when you think you have seen and heard everything you need to know about how to re-utilize an existing building’s entire structure, think again. Green Garage Detroit – literally figured out how to re-use it ALL, from existing pipes, bricks and even screws. You wouldn’t believe it until you see it for yourself, but Green Garage Detroit is taking reuse in renovation to another level!

Normally one would not associate the word “garage” with being “green” but Green Garage Detroit has really gone above and beyond to be at the top of the “green” list – at least in my opinion.

How it All Began
Green Garage Detroit is located in Midtown, at 4444 Second Avenue. The building’s history began in 1920 when it was constructed.  For the next ten years the building housed a number of auto-related businesses including being a showroom for the Model T.   It was then owned by a shoe supply company called Kanners and Patrize until the 1980’s.  After that the building became a warehouse until 2007, when it was purchased by Tom and Peggy Brennan to develop a sustainable business center.  See the full building history here.

Green Garage Detroit building today.

A True Reuse Renovation
Once the building was purchased, the Brennan’s spent 2 years to discuss design, materials and development.  With a list as extensive and green as the one on the website, it is no wonder that they needed the help of over 200 community volunteers during the 2 year development and construction of this green, historic renovation.  What a beautiful building it turned out to be.  You can even see week by week photos of the entire 2 year construction process. It is just amazing what they documented.

Boxxster recycling for construction sites.

My Favorite Reuse
Here are some of my personal favorites on the many reuse projects Green Garage Detroit incorporated into this renovation.  For instance, how often do you see recycling boxes at a construction site?  They were determined to sort their materials into Boxxster boxes for National Recycling.

Results of walnut shell blasting to clean the ceiling.

Now I think I have heard it all – walnut shell blasting? Is this new, just to me? If you have a building with a 90-year-old ceiling that has never been cleaned, then walnut shell blasting is apparently what you need. Just check out the amazing before and after results.

The final product, Green Garage Detroit – stairwell wall.
Wood scraps used to create Green Garage Detroit’s stairwell wall.

The beautiful wood wall you see as you walk into Green Garage Detroit was made from scraps of wood that was used throughout the project.  Not only that – the railing to the staircase is reused pipes from the building.    I just can’t get over how euro and sleek the wall looks.  Check out the before and after pictures of all the projects.

Green Garage Detroit – business store front.

Open For Business
By Fall of 2011, Green Garage Detroit opened its doors for business, and of course their business rightfully engages in a number of sustainable initiatives.

Right from their website:  The “Green Garage” refers to a number of things: a building, a project and a community of people working to develop a sustainable business center in Detroit.

Green Garage Detroit – business rental space.

The Green Detroit building currently rents office and workshop space to businesses whose primary focus remain on the environment, economics and the community. These businesses often work together in what they are calling a co-working community.

Another important aspect of the work that Green Garage engages in is called Growing 3D Businesses Naturally, which provides business with the resources and knowledge to growing a business naturally. The roughly 16-week series of sessions aim to find the core of the business and then guide business owners through a natural development process.

Green Garage Detroit – Urban Sustainability Library

Green Garage Detroit’s Pledge to the Community
Green Garage Detroit houses an Urban Sustainability Library, which connects people to the resources they need to live more sustainably. The also have an active Sustainability Labs group, whose mission is to measure and provide data to help understand the building’s performance, and help with requests that come from the public.

The Green Garage has an open door policy and is host to weekly events to engage the community in sustainable practices and design.  They also have a weekly community brown-bag lunch every Friday at noon. It provides a review of the weekly projects they have been working on and includes a tour of the building. If you haven’t yet checked out the Green Garage Detroit – I highly recommend attending the Friday, community brown-bag lunch and tour.

Have you ever visited the Green Garage Detroit?  If so, what is your favorite example of reuse in the building?

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