Back in April, I made mention of the Conover Cottages design competition, an innovative, preservation-minded residential restoration/renovation contest taking place in Brooklyn's Red Hook section, home to truck farms, zero-energy building projects, Kurt Vonnegut memorial composters, high-end green furniture designers, gorgeous garden centers, and last but not least, yours truly. 

For the Realty Collective-sponsored competition, designers, both local and non-local, were invited to submit plans on how they’d restore three historic 20-by-25 foot homes on Conover Street that have seen better days. Entries had to "be modest, tasteful homes which blend into the existing fabric of this prime Red Hook block with some innovation, while staying within the structural footprint on the attached site plan and elevation."
Some more background info on the contest:
Located on a tree-lined cobblestone street, steps from the water, Fairway, Sunny’s, Botanica, the Waterfront Barge, Liberty Sunset Garden Center, and lovely public parks, gardens, and piers, these homes are located on one of the most desirable blocks in 'the Back' of historic Red Hook.

But time has not been kind to the Conover Cottages. Their facades have been swathed in vinyl, and their foundations are distressed. The houses’ humble origins are evident in their low ceilings and sloping floors. It is unlikely that the original builders intended the homes to last for a century, but they have endured. Sensitive to the evolving community and its historic roots, we look forward to the rebirth of these beloved homes.
Inspired in part by the Small House Movement, we invite our neighbors and the design community to contribute their visions of what the three adjacent homes can become; they will be renovated based on the winning plans. The designs should embrace traditional cottage style, but as with the original houses, each should retain its own character. Though the block is not restricted by any landmark status, our goal is to keep the spirit of the cottages intact while adding light, higher ceilings, and modern mechanicals.
A couple weeks back the three winning designs were announced. The prize? $1,000 awarded to each designer and, impressively, “the satisfaction of seeing their [the designers] work realized as the homes are restored throughout the next year.” 
One winning design that truly caught my eye is the Eco-ttage from Jim Fish at MOD{all], a sustainability-minded design firm out of Cleveland that first came to my attention with the EChO-Mansion, a finalist in last year's Reburbia design competition.
I admit that as a Red Hooker, I was initially reluctant that the firm behind one of the winning designs hailed from Ohio, not New York. However, it's obvious that Fish has put a ton of thought into the design, "a dwelling which respects its context, neighborhood, and its modest roots, while embracing its connection to the environment and technology." Among the features that justify the "eco" in the Eco-ttage are a rooftop solar array, rainwater catchment system, passive solar design, and a nifty centrally located "UtilitySpine" that "contains all the mechanical (including sustainable) services, and technology connections, all exposed, accessible, and compatible." 
Read more about Eco-ttage over at the Mod{all} website. I'm really liking the concept thus far and can't wait to see it made a reality in my own backyard. 
Conover St. photo via Fast Company

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

An urban Eco-ttage
The Eco-ttage, one of three winners in Red Hook, Brooklyn's Conover Cottages design competition, packs a whole lot of green innovation into a limited and histo