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The greenest buildings in Detroit, mapped

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Developers in Detroit have increasingly recognized the impact of their buildings on the environment. By including green features in designs, building owners not only decrease their energy costs, but also improve the local ecosystem and create healthier places for the people who use them.

Since the mid-2000s, new buildings have been designed or retrofitted with impressively energy efficient and low waste systems, utilizing features like solar lighting, geothermal heating and cooling, and green stormwater infrastructure. Others have made commitments to improvement or are important for their impact outside the building itself.

Below are the greenest buildings in Detroit. Let us know which ones we forgot in the comments section.

Note: Buildings are arranged north to south.

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Detroit Zen Center

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After a devastating flood in 2014, the Hamtramck-based center has undertaken a number of green initiatives to decrease the potential for future disasters. It’s installed one green roof and successfully completed a $50,000 crowdfunding campaign last year to build a second, more extensive one. It also owns a lot across the street that it plans on converting into a rain garden.

The Zen Center hopes that these efforts will inspire the city of Hamtramck, which has struggled with flooding, to fund more extensive stormwater infrastructure in the city.

We should also mention that the center runs a vegan food business, Living Zen Organics, that uses biodegradable packaging and produce largely from local farms.

Avalon Village

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A holistic eco-village in Highland Park, Avalon Village seeks to do many things for its community, like provide after-school care for children, incubation for women-led businesses, mental and physical healing services, and more.

There’s much to admire in this project, including the fact that everything has and will be undertaken with sustainable practices in mind. In 2014, Soulardarity installed a solar street light at the village. There will be a vegetarian cafe and greenhouse. The buildings themselves will have geothermal heating systems. And extensive remediation efforts were done at the site of an old gas station.

All in all, Avalon Village is living up to the “eco” in its description.

Recycle Here!

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The building itself may not be the greenest in the city, but the recycle center in Northwest Goldberg has facilitated essential sustainability efforts in Detroit.

It’s recycle program, started in 2005, originally started because of the city’s lack of curbside recycling. It’s still widely utilized to recycle materials not accepted by the city’s waste contractors, like batteries, styrofoam, and certain kinds of plastic.

It also runs a recycling program to encourage recycling in Detroit schools, and hosts its own classes on-site through field trips to help foster the next generation of environmental stewards.

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

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In recent years, the cultural center museum has made a number of commitments to become more environmentally responsible—like reducing its waste output to zero by 2030—and has hired a Chief Sustainability Officer to oversee the effort.

It’s also collaborating with the neighboring Michigan Science Center to implement stormwater management infrastructure, like porous pavers and bioswales, between the two institutions.

The interior of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The floor is painted with a colorful pattern. The ceiling is a dome shape and is glass. There are various flags hanging from the ceiling and attached to the wall. Michelle Gerard

71 Garfield

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An early adopter of the green building movement, this mixed-use building in Midtown built in 1922 has everything you’d want in a sustainable redevelopment.

There’s a 20-kilowatt solar array on the roof, a geothermal heating and cooling system, and a rooftop water collection system in the historic structure. These upgrades have allowed it to operate at one-third the energy output prior to renovation.

Green Garage

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The first major green renovation in the city, the Green Garage has been an example for other builders in the city about how to do a responsible green redevelopment.

The renovation of the former Model T showroom into a business incubator and co-working space took around three years. That slow approach allowed the owners to incorporate a number of sustainable elements into the design that are still being perfected. The building has pex tubing that circulates hot water, roof-top solar panels, high-performance Cardinal glass windows, a super-insulated envelope, to name just a few of the many features.

It was also one of the first in the city to build a green alley filled with native plants.

El Moore

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Owned by the same group as the Green Garage, this sustainable apartment building and lodge shares many of the features as its predecessor.

The El Moore claims to use about 20 percent of the average apartment building through super insulation, geothermal heating and cooling, efficient windows, solar panels, and energy efficient appliances. Also like its counterpart, it has extensive recycling and composting systems, and uses rainwater catchment barrels and permeable surfaces to improve stormwater management.

Eco Homes

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This development, when completed, will be the first new-build net zero energy homes in the city. The 14 infill homes in Midtown near the Lodge service drive come with a bevy of sustainable features: solar lighting, energy-efficient envelope and windows, rain barrels and vegetation to mitigate stormwater, to name a few.

Some of the houses have already been sold and others are available for pre-sale. They vary from around 1,400 to 1,800 square feet most are going for a little over $500,000.

Rendering of an Eco Home
Courtesy Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices/The Loft Warehouse

IBEW Hall

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Home to Local 58 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the 33,000-square-foot facility, constructed in 1964, became the largest Net Zero Energy building in the state upon completion of its recent renovation.

The new union hall features, according to Model D, “a 600-solar panel array and solar DC-to-AC power inverters, geothermal grid, environmentally-friendly heating and cooling system, more than 500 LED lights, energy efficient windows and doors, synthetic rubber roofing system, and structurally insulated panel and Vaproshield water resistance barrier systems for walls. There’s also a virtual energy monitoring system that keeps lights off when people aren’t around.”

Cobo Center

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In 2015, the Cobo Center completed a $279 million renovation—a massive investment in a building that had at one point been a drain on city resources.

That investment has paid off mightily as revenue and attendance at the convention center has steadily increased since then. That’s in no small part to the green features in its redesign, which allowed it be certified by the International Green Meeting Standard. Cobo now has recycled grey water cooled for air conditioning, a computer controlled temperature system, low-flow restrooms, a living green roof, extensive recycling systems, and more.

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Detroit Zen Center

After a devastating flood in 2014, the Hamtramck-based center has undertaken a number of green initiatives to decrease the potential for future disasters. It’s installed one green roof and successfully completed a $50,000 crowdfunding campaign last year to build a second, more extensive one. It also owns a lot across the street that it plans on converting into a rain garden.

The Zen Center hopes that these efforts will inspire the city of Hamtramck, which has struggled with flooding, to fund more extensive stormwater infrastructure in the city.

We should also mention that the center runs a vegan food business, Living Zen Organics, that uses biodegradable packaging and produce largely from local farms.

Avalon Village

A holistic eco-village in Highland Park, Avalon Village seeks to do many things for its community, like provide after-school care for children, incubation for women-led businesses, mental and physical healing services, and more.

There’s much to admire in this project, including the fact that everything has and will be undertaken with sustainable practices in mind. In 2014, Soulardarity installed a solar street light at the village. There will be a vegetarian cafe and greenhouse. The buildings themselves will have geothermal heating systems. And extensive remediation efforts were done at the site of an old gas station.

All in all, Avalon Village is living up to the “eco” in its description.

Recycle Here!

The building itself may not be the greenest in the city, but the recycle center in Northwest Goldberg has facilitated essential sustainability efforts in Detroit.

It’s recycle program, started in 2005, originally started because of the city’s lack of curbside recycling. It’s still widely utilized to recycle materials not accepted by the city’s waste contractors, like batteries, styrofoam, and certain kinds of plastic.

It also runs a recycling program to encourage recycling in Detroit schools, and hosts its own classes on-site through field trips to help foster the next generation of environmental stewards.

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

In recent years, the cultural center museum has made a number of commitments to become more environmentally responsible—like reducing its waste output to zero by 2030—and has hired a Chief Sustainability Officer to oversee the effort.

It’s also collaborating with the neighboring Michigan Science Center to implement stormwater management infrastructure, like porous pavers and bioswales, between the two institutions.

The interior of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The floor is painted with a colorful pattern. The ceiling is a dome shape and is glass. There are various flags hanging from the ceiling and attached to the wall. Michelle Gerard

71 Garfield

An early adopter of the green building movement, this mixed-use building in Midtown built in 1922 has everything you’d want in a sustainable redevelopment.

There’s a 20-kilowatt solar array on the roof, a geothermal heating and cooling system, and a rooftop water collection system in the historic structure. These upgrades have allowed it to operate at one-third the energy output prior to renovation.

Green Garage

The first major green renovation in the city, the Green Garage has been an example for other builders in the city about how to do a responsible green redevelopment.

The renovation of the former Model T showroom into a business incubator and co-working space took around three years. That slow approach allowed the owners to incorporate a number of sustainable elements into the design that are still being perfected. The building has pex tubing that circulates hot water, roof-top solar panels, high-performance Cardinal glass windows, a super-insulated envelope, to name just a few of the many features.

It was also one of the first in the city to build a green alley filled with native plants.

El Moore

Owned by the same group as the Green Garage, this sustainable apartment building and lodge shares many of the features as its predecessor.

The El Moore claims to use about 20 percent of the average apartment building through super insulation, geothermal heating and cooling, efficient windows, solar panels, and energy efficient appliances. Also like its counterpart, it has extensive recycling and composting systems, and uses rainwater catchment barrels and permeable surfaces to improve stormwater management.

Eco Homes

This development, when completed, will be the first new-build net zero energy homes in the city. The 14 infill homes in Midtown near the Lodge service drive come with a bevy of sustainable features: solar lighting, energy-efficient envelope and windows, rain barrels and vegetation to mitigate stormwater, to name a few.

Some of the houses have already been sold and others are available for pre-sale. They vary from around 1,400 to 1,800 square feet most are going for a little over $500,000.

Rendering of an Eco Home
Courtesy Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices/The Loft Warehouse

IBEW Hall

Home to Local 58 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the 33,000-square-foot facility, constructed in 1964, became the largest Net Zero Energy building in the state upon completion of its recent renovation.

The new union hall features, according to Model D, “a 600-solar panel array and solar DC-to-AC power inverters, geothermal grid, environmentally-friendly heating and cooling system, more than 500 LED lights, energy efficient windows and doors, synthetic rubber roofing system, and structurally insulated panel and Vaproshield water resistance barrier systems for walls. There’s also a virtual energy monitoring system that keeps lights off when people aren’t around.”

Cobo Center

In 2015, the Cobo Center completed a $279 million renovation—a massive investment in a building that had at one point been a drain on city resources.

That investment has paid off mightily as revenue and attendance at the convention center has steadily increased since then. That’s in no small part to the green features in its redesign, which allowed it be certified by the International Green Meeting Standard. Cobo now has recycled grey water cooled for air conditioning, a computer controlled temperature system, low-flow restrooms, a living green roof, extensive recycling systems, and more.