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'EcoHouse' Educates South Williamsburg to Create Sustainable Homes

By Meredith Hoffman | November 16, 2012 3:46pm

WILLIAMSBURG — A shower head, a toilet and light bulbs have just landed in M.S. 50's schoolyard — and the mobile home containing them carries an invaluable lesson, activists say.

The EcoHouse — an energy-efficient dwelling designed by the Community Environmental Center non-profit — includes kitchen, bathroom and living room appliances with labels to teach kids and adults about sustainability.

The house, which was previously set up at McCarren Park and other spots in Brooklyn, is catering to local schools and residents at the Driggs Avenue public middle school for the next month, CEC representatives said.

"A lot of kids have asked us if we live here," laughed one of the guides, Melanie Rivera, 20, noting that the classroom's realistic appearance helped promote the message that sustainability is attainable for all households. "The kids are drawn like moths to the light bulbs," she said of students' favorite exhibit that showed the range of energy use of different kinds of lights.

The EcoHouse may seem like a fun house, but its purpose is far more serious and crucial, the local politicians, community activists, and M.S. 50 principal said Friday in front of the structure.

"There is real climate change and we didn't believe it before but we just went through some of it," the CEC's CEO Richard Cherry said, referring to Hurricane Sandy.

"The CEC has worked to help change thousands of buildings to become more energy efficient," Cherry said of his organization's work with New York City buildings. "But we need to do more than fix buildings, we need to change the way we live."

Representatives from the non-profit El Puente's Green Light District and from the  New York State Energy Research Development Authority also noted that the EcoHouse was an example of the kind of sustainable housing local residents could implement for their homes.

Home owners, for instance, can get energy usage evaluations with NYSERDA's Energy Star Program, representative Mark Wyman noted, who called EcoHouse a "fun way to learn how your house uses and loses energy."

Councilwoman Diana Reyna, who also linked the recent hurricane to climate change, said she dreamed of new buildings like the EcoHouse for the residents who lost their homes in the storm.

"We have more than 40,000 new homeless families in the city," she said. "These could be temporary homes."

The EcoHouse is open for school groups weekdays 9 a.m. — 3 p.m. and for the public weekdays 3 — 5 p.m. and Saturdays 11 a.m. — 4 p.m. The building will be on M.S. 50's schoolyard through Dec. 17.