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"to TEACH inner city youth and/or underprivileged persons to be successful entrepreneurs while revitalizing inner city neighborhoods with a concentration on socially responsible/sustainable business practices"

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The Ever-Changing Landscape

Posted on by John Grossman

If you’ve driven down Armory Street in recent weeks, you’ll notice that much about our landscape has changed. The chain link fence surrounding our property has been removed and replaced, with a lot of the brush cleaned up in the process. Our construction site is now very visible from the sidewalk and while driving by! Our parking lot is being slowly transformed with landscaping. The hill that connects the sidewalk to our parking lot will soon have lush green grass that has been planted through a process called hydroseeding, which grows grass quickly and is ideal for sloped areas. We kept an original rock retainer wall and will add a great variety of plants including Sweetfern, Red Twig Dogwood, Witchhazel and Northern Bayberry. Each of these plants requires minimal watering (per LEED requirements) and low maintenance, but will add a nice splash of many different colors including green, yellow and red.

landscaping4 300x225 The Ever Changing Landscape

This area that has been hydroseeded will soon be lush, green grass.

landscaping2 300x225 The Ever Changing Landscape

The retainer wall with the first plants in place.

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Gearing up for the Grand Opening

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Ecobuilding Bargains Blog Gearing up for the Grand OpeningGreetings EcoBuilding Bargains friends!

In anticipation of the store’s Grand Opening Celebration, we thought we’d share some of the design decisions behind what you’ll see when you come for your visit.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ve read about some of the energy efficiency upgrades, including high performance insulation, heating and lighting, that will make this a national model for what you can do with an older, inefficient building.

SITELAB Architecture + Design has been working with the EcoBuilding Bargains team for the past fifteen months to make sure that your experience of the store is consistent with the non-profit’s innovative goals: to reuse valuable building materials, to make home improvement more affordable, and to create local jobs and provide job training.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be guest blogging to tell you the story of the building expansion.  I hope to meet you at the Grand Opening!

Caryn Brause, Principal   SITELAB Architecture + Design

restore exterior 1 Gearing up for the Grand Opening

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Envelope Design

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armory view blog Envelope Design

If the new EcoBuilding Bargains’ exterior grabs your attention as you whiz down Armory Street – that’s what we’re intending.  This is a high traffic corridor and not all the traffic will be coming to the store.  They may be curious about the new construction on Warwick Street.  We’d like them to know what’s up and be curious enough to stop by for a visit.  For returning customers used to finding the store on Albany Street, the arresting green and white exterior will orient them to the new location.

But the building’s design is not just about bringing in customers, it’s also about showing how you can give new life to an older inefficient building.  We definitely aim to show that repurposing older commercial buildings can be exciting!

This year, EcoBuilding Bargains, formerly known as the ReStore, changed its look. A new logo, a new name, and a new tagline – “recycled stuff from floors to doors” – were developed so that people would have a better sense of what the store offers.  Many design decisions — from the super-sized logo to the insulated metal panel colors to the recycled and repurposed materials in the vestibule — reinforce these exciting changes.


corner construction blog1 Envelope Design

The exterior facade design highlights the most dramatic change in the building:  the use of 3” thick insulated metal panels to wrap the old brick warehouse. Although insulated metal panels are not uncommon on commercial buildings, you may be more familiar with them as the exterior cladding used for cold storage buildings and food processing plants.  Here they were combined with 7 ½” of repurposed roof insulation to economically create a new “envelope” for the older building.

From a design standpoint, the panels extend up at the corner and are wrapped by CET’s logos to increase visibility from the nearby intersection.   Working with the standard color choices, panel colors are varied to break down the scale of the building and to demonstrate a complete transformation into a modern, recognizable retail environment.

EcoBuilding Bargains corner blog1 Envelope Design


A guiding principle in all of my work is that every design move has to do double-duty.  In this case, we located the single “peek-a-boo” window for maximum impact. Due to structural and economic constraints, we were only allowed one window.

The location at the corner permits approaching visitors to see what’s happening inside.  Customers on the inside get a welcome view out to the newly-planted, colorful, and low-maintenance hillside.  At the same time, the thickness of the opening around the window reveals the layering of the new metal panels onto the old brick building.

The design goal was to have the envelope not only improve the building’s performance, but also convey the non-profit’s goals to customers and passersby.


Be sure to come by and check out the view!


Caryn Brause, Principal  SITELAB Architecture + Design

window blog Envelope Design


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Material reuse you can touch

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vestibule blog Material reuse you can touch

Repurposed materials are the EcoBuilding Bargains’ business.  SITELAB Architecture + Design featured these materials throughout the design.

One example is the decorative parapet that adds warmth to the insulated metal panel facade. This will be constructed of locust, harvested onsite during the site preparation, run through the sawmill and returned to the site as lumber.

Customers will pass through the most obvious example of material reuse every day.  The vestibule is structured with recovered timbers and infilled with reused glazed sliding doors and repurposed material panels. The material panels show ways that repurposed materials can be used in different patterns and textures depending on the quantities available.

Vestibule color blog 06 Material reuse you can touch

For example, sometimes EcoBuilding Bargains has a selection of Hardi-plank siding but doesn’t have enough to complete the entire wall of a project.  The vestibule shows how colors can be combined in different ways to work around this challenge.  One way might be to introduce stripes or create visual interest by using one color in different widths.  Another way might be to create a pattern of strips across an entire façade working with a selection of available colors.  Another panel shows slate, repurposed from a roof, now used as a wall material.

hardiplank web Material reuse you can touch

The vestibule serves as another hardworking element in the design.  It not only provides an airlock and transition from the outside to the new insulated building, but it teaches about repurposing by showing innovative methods for material reuse from the moment customers walk through the door.

I believe that every act of design can be a catalyst for building capacity – in individuals, families and communities.  The Center for EcoTechnology does this in so many ways.  Now their building can do it too!

Caryn Brause, Principal  SITELAB Architecture + Design


vestibule construction blog Material reuse you can touch

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Harvesting worms

Red wiggler worms are able to eat half their body weight in food waste everyday. 

Why does that matter? Well, ahem, uhh… their poop, also called worm castings, is a great organic fertilizer.

But when I apply the “fertilizer” to my garden, I don’t want to lose the worms that turned my garbage into something of value. So before I apply the compost to the ground, I harvest the worms and put them back in my worm bin (see picture below).

Right now, I don’t need the fertile worm castings, but come spring, I’ll use the them grow better food.

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Making An Appearance

Wow, the facade of our building is quickly changing. In addition to the vestibule that will hold our entrance/exit, insulated metal panels (IMPs) are now being applied to the front and sides of our future home at 83 Warwick Street. The exterior of the building has been covered with R-29 insulation and air sealed, with the Kingspan IMPs applied over a rockwool covering affixed to the masonry exterior. This work helps to ensure that the shell of our building is super energy efficient.

The IMPs being unloaded from the flatbed truck.

The panels, which are temporarily being stored in the parking lot.

The IMPs that have been installed to the facade of the building. We used crisp white and hunter green colors for the panels, which will make the design of the building really pop.

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Custom herb boxes

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A normal day at the New Growth Gardens Youth Employment Training Program

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Trip to Red Fire Farm to get heirloom tomato seeds

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Organizing raised beds

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