An Interview with Eldon Scott and Thomas Kosbau on the Dekalb Market Project

March 18th, 2011 | Posted by tjones in Green Building | Interviews | Sustainability

We were fortunate to be able to interview, via email, the CEOs of Urban Space and ORE Design and Technology Group.  These two organizations are designing and building the Dekalb Market Project, which includes a competition we wrote about earlier in the week, and for which our CEO, Sarah Beatty, is a judge.  Below, they discuss the missions of their organizations, some of the plans for the project, and the deep commitment to sustainability they both have when beginning the design on a new project.  (A special thanks, as well, to Kat Popiel for facilitating this great interview!)

Green Depot (GD): Could you elaborate a bit upon your companies, and their missions and visions?
Eldon Scott (ES): Urban Space was founded in London by Eric Reynolds in the 1970′s and quickly became well  known as creators of Camden Lock Market which became the 3rd busiest attraction in London and a center for music during the  Punk Rock days and an incubator for an earlier generation of entrepreneurial, cultural and environmentally savvy start-ups. Now we are seeing a second renaissance in environmental and social entrepreneurship and we see it as our business to provide infrastructure support in the form of marketplace destinations.

The mission we distilled for Dekalb Market has been carefully considered [around four key concepts:] entrepreneurship, sustainability, community, and quality.  Our goal (and ultimate success) is to find entrepreneurs who have a product which both fits the overall mission of sustainability, is of inherent quality, and is accessible (in terms of price and presentation) to our customers.

Thomas Kosbau (TK): I founded ORE Design and Technology Group in 2009.  The name ORE is partly an homage to my roots in Portland Oregon, but also embodies our approach to finding and synthesizing the raw potential of new technologies and systems found in the natural world into design solutions. Our projects range from bio-reactors to tea sets, from a desalinization system integrated into a skyscraper to a passively cooled Lower East-Side community garden.

ORE’s designs are award winning. In 2010, ORE took first place in IIDA Awards competition out of 4,000 entrants with a proposal to replace Incheon, Korea’s infrastructure of conventional asphalt roads with organically grown sandstone streets. ORE also won first place in RIBA’s International Energy Revolution competition, with a design enabling five residential blocks to be powered by bio-engineered algae panels. Also in development is a bio-mimetic cactus that harvests drinking water from the air in arid environments. ORE continues to seek challenging projects and provide innovative design solutions.

GD: Tell me a little bit about yourselves, your positions and responsibilities within the company, and how you got involved?
ES: I worked on numerous of our London markets and, in the late 80′s was project manager for the then new Spitalfields Market which included the first organic food market in London, an opera house, football pitches, and dozens of restaurants, studios, and small shops. In many ways that experience has formed my approach in Brooklyn.  Around 1994 I set-up the New York office of Urban Space with the launch of the Grand Central Holiday Market which led to other seasonal markets around the City at Union Square, Columbus Circle, and Madison Square…

TK: I’m still a young designer in the field of architecture and industrial design, but in the past 8 years I’ve been able to do all scales of projects from office towers to a jacket/shelter for homeless people made from discarded umbrellas I collected after a heavy New York rain.  I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and as the son of the founder of the Portland Parks Community Garden Program was exposed to organic urban agriculture from the beginning.   I started my education in chemistry and physics before moving to architecture.  At the University of Stuttgart in Germany I was first exposed to bio-mimicry in architecture at the ILEK institute under Architect/Engineer Werner Sobek.  I’ve taken this model into my private practice, pulling from my roots in science and sustainability as ORE’s Director of Design and Technology.

GD: How did the idea for the container project begin to develop?  Where’d you get the idea?
ES: Urban Space has been building with containers in London since the 90′s with the inception of Container City. Containers were a natural step for us in Brooklyn. We are also working with Lotek and partner Young Woo on a larger container project for Pier 57 in Manhattan [PDF].

TK: Using Containers was all Eldon’s idea – he’s had considerable experience with the medium of modular design with post-industrial processes through UrbanSpace in London.

GD: So would you say that sustainability has been a core focus of the project from the beginning?

ORE's redesign from the 5th street community garden, courtesy of ORE design

TK: Absolutely – The first move, of course, was adapting used and “one-time” shipping containers into our vendor and event spaces.  From the beginning we’ve set out to use as many sustainable/ salvaged building materials as possible, which has been made possible by our collaboration with GD.

ES: Yes, the four criteria [including sustainability] inform all our projects.  Small businesses are the front line of the local movement in production and the cultural reaction against globalization and wasting of resources (much as “Small is Beautiful” was the seminal book during Camden’s heyday in the late 70′s). We utilize the approach of “Smaller, Quicker, Cheaper” to build lightly on the ground with less raw resources. Most of the materials are salvaged including the containers which form the main structure, the tented covering, and wood and steel from Build it Green.  We are trying as far as possible to create a self-sustaining ecosystem with reduce reliance on outside inputs. Electricity is being supplied by Green Mountain Energy from renewable sources and we are working on site-based wind and solar. We are not hooked-up to the City Sewers and all rainwater is sloped to a collection point where is can be used to water plants. The vegetable, chicken and bee farm help us to compost food waste, create soil, and pollinate edible plants which in turn are used by chefs on-site. Most important, the site is economically sustainable. We do not rely on government grants, only on the transactions generated in the marketplace.

GD: There have obviously been great successes with your other projects – do you forsee any new challenges with this one?
ES: No, we don’t envision any major issues.

TK: Honestly, the most challenging part of this project has been determining how to treat temporary buildings that will stay on-site for up to ten years with the building authorities.  We ended up treating our containers as permanent buildings for our permitting, but have designed the project to be movable (complete with a self-contained plumbing system) once our lease has expired.

GD: Could you detail how Urban Spaces and GD are going to be working together?
ES: Yes – we are looking to procure building materials and supplies from Green Depot. [All of our] new materials we are sourcing from Green Depot.

TK: Green Depot is providing us and all of our vendors with a great discount on green building materials.

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green products for a sustainable lifestyle, visit http://www.greendepot.com.

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