true grit

“New York is just one big case of mixed-use integration,” says Caleb Crawford, LEED AP. And thus, this conversion of a former manufacturing warehouse into a duplex simply followed a natural progression.

The existing two-story structure was built to the limit of its 25-foot-wide-by-100-foot-deep lot, so the big question was how to bring in light and air. But Crawford had an answer: “Instead of chopping off the back for a traditional rear yard, we cut out the middle and made a courtyard,” he explains. The move also solved the problem of a busy street in front and an unappealing alley in back. Views and light were definitely best served by an open center section.

To guard the budget, preserve materials, and honor the neighborhood's “feeling of toughness,” Crawford and his partners retained as much of the building's “site, structure, and skin” as possible. Wood joist construction supported by brick-bearing walls made it easy to remove the center section. Those old bricks remain exposed throughout much of the interior space, with concrete-filled former windows and doors also expressed as part of the industrial collage. Street-level floors were taken down to the concrete slab and freshened with an epoxy coating. Upstairs, wood subfloors were patched (with materials from the cutout section) and refinished as a final surface. Even the original stair, railings intact, still services the rear unit.

One important piece was beyond salvaging, however: The façade was literally falling off. But Crawford saw the bright side. “It gave us the great opportunity to redo the front of the building,” he says. Thanks to an investor who also owns a steel-fabrication company, the new elevation is built to last with off-the-shelf, 3-foot-by-8-foot steel sheets. “We tried to reduce waste, and this was an efficient use of the material,” he explains. Using the panels in a typical rainscreen construction resulted in a clean look without visible joinery. It also gave some dimensional flexibility. “There are only two inches of back-and-forth movement in the steel panels,” he says, “but it yields a huge effect.” The self-confessed “old New Yorker who prefers bars on windows to alarm systems” further enlivened the sleek elevation by designing those bars in a Mondrian-like pattern.

In contrast to the shadowy façade, courtyard walls feature shiny aluminum panels and bright white finishes. Glossy surfaces reflect additional light into the open units and lend a constantly sunny disposition to the compact outdoor spaces. Vertical steel cables extend two stories up to a steel bar spanning the width of the courtyard. Evergreen vines climb those cables. The organic divider affords privacy while bringing a touch of nature to the hardscaped yard.

Along with recycling and reusing building parts, the firm speced high-efficiency air and heating systems, appliances, and light fixtures. Old floor and ceiling joists offered 10-plus inches of space to pack in the insulation for ratings as high as R50 on the roof. The roof was also reinforced and outfitted for outdoor living, complete with recycled tires as decking material. In fact, the firm's design was so conscientious, it earned the building an Energy Star label.

project:
262 Bond Street, Brooklyn, N.Y.

architect:
Coggan Crawford Schaut, Brooklyn

general contractor/developer
Giancola Contracting, Brooklyn

project size:
2,008 square feet per unit (plus 990 square feet of private outdoor space)

site size:
0.06 acre

construction cost:
$175 per square foot

sales price:
$1.4 million per unit

number of units:
2

photography:
Paul Finkel