Brower Center aims to be hub for community

I’ve just finished a tour of the David Brower Center. The center’s home is a state-of-the-art green building that faces the tennis courts on Allston Way in Berkeley.

Its spot was formerly a parking lot that belonged to the City of Berkeley, which donated it to the Brower Center in exchange for construction of an underground parking garage (City CarShare pod included!). The building features enormous skylights surrounded by concrete made with 40 – 70 percent slag, a waste product of steel production. Its accents are reclaimed wood. The building has carpeting from green trailblazer Interface. Heat will come from deep within the concrete walls, making it more efficient. And a solar array on the roof will provide about 40 percent of the building’s power.

Many of the green features seem obvious (lights on timers, for example), but, together will likely allow the building to exceed LEED Platinum certification. What’s really interesting is the way the building will facilitate greener living by those who occupy it.

It has shower stalls for people who bike to work (it’s also a short block-and-a-half away from the Downtown Berkeley BART stop). The bottom floor offers gathering and exhibition spaces, and the upper floors will provide natural-light office spaces for environmental and social justice organizations. (Nonprofits get discounted rents, offering them a rare opportunity to enjoy the world they fight to protect.) Next-door is a charming 96-unit affordable housing development. What kinds of interactions will these pleasant communal spaces facilitate? Over lunch in the kitchen, employees from International Rivers, say, and Community Alliance for Family Farmers could wind up brainstorming a new joint project. Events planned for residents could introduce them to composting, gray water recycling (which the center will use for its landscaping and toilets), and other eco-friendly daily routines beyond living just a hop, skip and a jump from BART.

I’ve been hearing more about new business and living models that have the potential to usher in profoundly different ways of living and working: co-working, co-housing, projects shared by green businesses and nonprofits. I’ll be featuring these occasionally with the tag “putting it in practice.” Please tell me about new green-living practices you’ve seen.

Check the Brower Center out for yourself at an all-day open house featuring music, lectures and kids’ events (link to program here) on Sunday May 10.

(original article)