Detroit’s Green Garage: Peggy Brennan

Check out the transcript of RFC’s conversation with Peggy Brennan.

Peggy Brennan
The Detroit area is not always known for its forward thinking, Green initiatives. More often, Detroit is often coupled with negative press whether it is for its politics, its economical troubles or its crime news. Until now, that is. Tom and Peggy Brennan are heading up Detroit’s Green Garage. Luckily Peggy carved out some time in her already busy schedule to sit down and talk with us about their project.

“The Green Garage is basically three different things, a building, a business and a community. It’s a building in midtown that used to be a Model T showroom. We bought it at the very end of 2007 and right now it is undergoing a green and historic renovation. It is going to become a green business incubator and finally the last component of it, is it is a community of people,” said Brennan.

With the help of a team of architects, designers, and people from the community, the Brennan’s are undertaking this renovation with high hopes. They are looking to bring people together with a common goal. They are taking a “community based approach” to the renovation with plans to take everyone’s opinions into play so that it is not just one persons plan but yet a group’s collective decision.

The Green Garage has been looking for forward thinking design plans from the beginning. For instance, they are hoping to have a net zero energy building. “Net zero energy means that the building will produce as much energy as it is going to consume.” This takes every inch of the building into consideration. They have developed a tight building envelope that is super insulated. With help from energy modeling software, the building will be built in a way that reduces the heating and cooling demands by about 90%.

“So basically we’re going be heating this building as if it were a 1,000 square foot building instead of 11,000 square feet, boasts Peggy.”

Founders of the Great Lakes Green Initiative, Tom and Peggy have been working together to encourage a more sustainable lifestyle. Once motivated, they began planning for some sort of demonstration center that would help promote their learning.

Originally thought for Ann Arbor because of its college base of volunteers, the Green Garage was shifted to Detroit after good friends’ suggestions. It was originally a Model T showroom when it was built in the 1920’s during a boom time in our city. The windows were later bricked over in 1967, the year of the Detroit riots. “For us, it’s going to be very significant when in a couple of weeks we’re going to unbrick those windows. That for us symbolizes hopefully the turnaround that this city is going to experience.”

With absolutely no trouble from the city of Detroit, the Brennan’s and their team developed building plans unusual to most zoning and city officials. With over 25 pages long, they had detailed descriptions of systems that are not typical for buildings, such as their geo-solar hybrid heating and cooling system.

With plans to have the building completed in April and their exterior work to be finished in the month of May, the Green Garage will be open for business at the end of May, 2010. With hopes to rent out spaces as small as a desk to as large as an entire set of offices, they are looking for small businesses that are looking to conduct green business. In addition to renting out spaces, they will also be available for individuals looking to green their lives.

“We are developing a library, we are developing a design center so there will be places where if you want walk in off the street and say I need some help with something, we are hoping that that is part of what we’re doing. In the annex building, we’re going to be setting up workshop space for people who want to rent space to develop a product,” says Brennan.

Alongside the Green Garage will be the Green Alley Project. This is the Brennan’s effort to beautify the ally closest to the garage with a brick walkway paved with permeable pavers and native gardens.

With a project that is so community based and hands on, The Green Garage is looking for volunteers who can lend a hand. If you are interested in helping out, email Peggy and Tom at or find them on Facebook. If you are in the midtown area, be sure to look out for the Green Garage.

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