Brooklyn’s 25 Carroll Street Condos Opt for Salvaged Materials

January 13, 2011

25 Carroll Street added its name to the growing list of sustainably designed housing complexes.  Located in the Columbia Street waterfront area of Brooklyn, the building was developed by Alex Barrett of Barrett Design and Development.  The condominiums were placed on the market in October of 2010 receiving offers on all units within five days.  On November 23, 2010 a contract for the last unit was signed. 

The 5-story masonry and heavy-timber building was constructed in 1898 by Francis Romeo.  Romeo, the then president of Brooklyn’s Macaroni Company, used the building for nearly 30 years to house his pasta manufacturing business.  In the late 1920’s the building was sold and for almost forty years served as a facility for several furniture manufactures.  In 2010, 25 Carroll LLC bought the entire building for $3,250,000 from Marathon Hosiery Company.

Barrett and his design and development firm worked to achieve a sustainable condo complex by using salvaged objects.  His most innovative design was using two shipping containers as the bulkhead for the rooftop.  Barrett said he developed the idea after staring across the rooftops into a shipyard full of the containers.  The bulkhead could have been made from a wide range of products such as masonry, steel framing, or wood, but Barrett explained the installation of shipping containers was a timesaver.  What would have taken weeks of work took merely hours to complete. 

The shipping containers allowed for a common area on the roof of the building while providing coverage for a stairway, elevator shaft, and mechanical space.  Views from the rooftop terrace look out to the Manhattan skyline and New York Harbor.  Barrett thinks the steel boxes offer great opportunities for reuse.  “[W]e always have a net surplus of these giant steel boxes.  They’re wonderful little pieces of engineering, but just because of the laws of supply and demand, they’re practically worthless in this country.”

The use of shipping containers was one of many ways Barrett successfully incorporated salvaged material into the building’s esthetics.  Preserving and revealing the history and character of the building was the forefront of design.  Interiorly, existing timber beams and columns along with existing masonry was restored and exposed.  Heavy-timber beams that needed to be replaced were repurposed.  Many of the old joists, beams, and columns that were replaced received a second life as furniture elements in the new condominiums.  New products, such as polished concrete countertops and exposed steel metalwork, were selected based on the products ability to compliment the old, reused materials.

Exteriorly, the masonry was retained and restored.  New double-hung windows with “thermally broken aluminum frames and insulated glazing units with low e-coating and argon filled airspace” were installed. The lobby, featuring exposed masonry, new concrete flooring, and benches made from repurposed heavy-timber, offers a dramatic, sophisticated entryway.

The condo’s design was based off three principles:  respecting the character of the building and its history, authenticity of materials, and environmental sensitivity.  With these principles in mind “efforts were made to significantly reduce the amount of waste.” 

Within the past several years, Columbia Street has blossomed into a trendy place to live.  Renovation efforts, such as 25 Carroll Street, and location make the Columbia Street area an appealing place to live.  Award winning gardens are plentiful in the area adorning every other corner.  Brooklyn Bridge Park and Pier 6 opened in June 2010 offering playgrounds and ferry service to Governor’s Island.  The area is also a hub for daily needs.  Retails, restaurants, coffee shops, and fitness centers surround the area making walking or biking accessible options.  Revitalization of the area’s neighborhoods has increased residential and retail developments making Columbia Street a solid investment for the economy and the environment.

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