News Architecture / Brooklyn Navy Yard

Meet Our Team: Sustainability Guide Doug Chapman

Over the next several weeks, we will be posting brief interviews with all of our great team members at Turnstile Tours. From historians to actors, special education professionals to artists, our team possesses a wide range of experience and expertise that help to make our tours well-crafted, engaging, and accessible to any audience.

Meet Doug Chapman, head of Sustainability Programming and leader of our Sustainability Tours of the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Where are you from originally, Doug?

I grew up in Toronto, Canada and went to high school in Interlochen, MI.

What do you do at Turnstile Tours?

I’m the sustainability tour guide, so I give the Sustainable Architecture & Industry Tour and am the point person at Turnstile for all the sustainability-focused work. I’m currently developing a tour based around horticulture, aquaculture and agriculture initiatives in the yard.

And what brought you to Turnstile Tours?

I’m passionate about two things: ecologically-sustainable design, and performing as an actor. So basically I love talking to folks about sustainability. Being a green tour guide is pretty much the prefect job for me!

Tell us about your background in sustainable design. How does that inform your work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard?

Right after graduating college [ed. note: Doug received his Bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College], I went to work for one of the top environmental architecture firms in the country, William McDonough + Partners, based out of Charlottesville, VA. After a few years there, I became their Director of Research, providing research support to the architects and an impressive client list including Ford Motor Company, Nike, University of Michigan, and the Woods Hole Research Center. After leaving Virginia, I worked on a sustainable development project in rural Haiti and was co-author of the internationally touring design exhibition, Massive Change with Bruce Mau Design. All in all, I’ve been in the green design game for about fifteen years.  I love this stuff and love telling people about it.

As one of the first people to get certified with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) assessment credentials, how has LEED changed since you first came on board?

I was one of the early folks registered as a LEED Accredited Professional, the US Green Building Council’s sustainable building rating system. LEED came on the scene in the late 1990’s and really made a big difference in the green building marketplace. Since then it has become the industry standard for green building certification, expanding to encompass a broad array of project types from interior design through neighborhood development.

Doug Chapman Sustainability Bicycle Tour
Doug leads the Sustainability Bicycle Tour of the Brooklyn Navy Yard

What are some of the most interesting things you’ve learned from doing research for and giving the Brooklyn Navy Yard Sustainability Tour?

The Brooklyn Navy Yard is doing some fantastic things with respect to sustainable development. I love how they’re providing a home for small- to medium-scale manufacturing in Brooklyn. We’ve come to believe that the most cost-effective manufacturing in a global economy requires outsourcing to locations with cheap labor and high-quantity production. But tenants at the yard are proving that small- and medium-sized, innovative artisans can make things here in the USA, and make a good living doing it.

Besides being a tour guide and sustainability professional, you’re also an actor. How do you manage all of these things?

Well, I love both worlds – the art of performance and the art of designing a sustainable future for our planet and society. So this dual passion gives me a lot of energy to juggle the demands of having two careers. It’s not always easy, but I can’t imagine letting one go for the other. It’s amazing what inspiration can motivate you to accomplish.

Tell us one of your favorite spots, activities, or historical tidbits about New York.

Honestly, one of my favorite spots in New York City is the Brooklyn Grange rooftop farm in the Navy  Yard. It’s so inspiring to see the huge quantities of amazing quality food produced by this beautiful one-acre rooftop, set in an industrial development with the New York skyline in the background. It is sustainable design at its best, and it fills me with hope for our urban future.  Rooftop farming in Brooklyn. You have to love it.

Meet Doug in person on the Sustainable Architecture & Industry Tour and the Urban Ecology Tour at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, both offered by Turnstile Tours in partnership with the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at BLDG 92 and the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative. Public bicycle tours are offered several times per month on select weekend days between March and October (see the full schedule and purchase tickets).  These experiences are also available as private group tours by bus or bicycle year-round – please contact us for more information or to schedule a tour. All tours begin and end at the BLDG 92, which offers free admission to three floors of exhibitions on the yard’s past, present, and future, and a host of great special events and programs.

Read Doug’s post about IceStone, a green manufacturer at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

See Doug interviewed on News 12 Brooklyn about the Urban Ecology Tour at the Brooklyn Navy Yard