NYC’s First Sustainable Home Planned at 61 Pitt Street

Architectural rendering; “Earthship” envisioned at 61 Pitt Street.

Are you ready for the EarthShip’s arrival on the Lower East Side?  You’re looking at a rendering of what LES resident Ken Ruck hopes will be the first totally sustainable single-family home in New York City. Last night, with his wife and several designers looking on, he pitched the idea to dazed members of Community Board 3’s land use committee. 

The six story structure is planned for a 25 foot lot at 61 Pitt Street, between Delancey and Rivington, which has been vacant for 90 years.  The home has been designed by trailblazing New Mexico architect Michael Reynolds, who has built thousands of “EarthShips” worldwide. The two story residence would rely completely on sustainable systems, including cutting edge solar, wind, water collection and treatment technologies. It would be the first Earthship built in any urban setting.

Architectural rendering: first floor entrance at 61 Pitt Street.
Architectural rendering: kitchen/living space at 61 Pitt Street.
61 Pitt Street has been vacant for 90 years. It is surrounded by tenement buildings.

Ruck told CB3 members he was in the process of dealing with the Department of Buildings on permits (a difficult endeavor in the most straightforward projects). Zoning on this block would allow for a 12 story building – the EarthShip will be half that size. Quoting from the 14-page handout given to community board members last night:

An essential part of the structure is a steel infrastructure raised to 6 stories. Te purpose of this structure is to hold solar and wind systems, but it is intended mainly for the passive solar heating system.

CB3 members were intrigued by the idea. The building would obviously not be “contextual” with the tenement buildings that surround it, or with the Gompers public housing development directly across the street. But Ruck said part of his motivation for building the home is to “raise awareness and show that you can build without electricity, without putting waste water on the street.”

A 16 year resident of the Lower East Side, Ruck said he loves Pitt Street and wants to give back to the community. He talked about offering monthly or bi-weekly tours of the home if/when it’s built. Ruck said the site’s co-owner is Paul Stallings, a major property owner on the LES and the developer of the Hotel on Rivington. Ruck indicated Stallings is supportive of the project.

While CB3 members reacted positively, they agreed no vote was necessary. They encouraged Ruck to stay in touch. If you’d like to learn more about Earthship homes, check out their web site or have a look at the video posted below: