You don’t have to make a building more expensive or technologically complex to make it sustainable.
Before entering architecture school at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, I spent a year studying issues of justice, ecology and development in the cities and countryside of England, India, Nepal, the Philippines, New Zealand and Mexico. What impressed me most were the simple and functional homes of the families with whom I lived. I returned to the US with the conviction that the places we live in have a profound effect on our lives both within their walls and beyond. Housing matters!
At the beginning of the trip in England, my classmates and I gathered on folding chairs in the corner of the Withiel Community Center to learn from local activist Satish Kumar, who edited a counter culture magazine and taught elementary school children how to garden and cook for themselves. A classmate challenged, “How can you spend your time baking bread when we have to change the world?” Satish regarded her calmly for a few moments then answered, “If you don’t have time to bake bread, you don’t have time to change the world.”
He was right. It is the basic domestic functions of life that do really matter — how we house ourselves — how we deal with our basic needs dictates everything else in our lives.
Nothing says more about who you are, and who you want to be than your house, and from an environmental perspective, the majority of housing being built in the United States today says nothing positive about our hopes and plans for the future. This is particularly evident in the way conventional housing neglects the issue of sustainable design.
Today though, the housing industry has little to do with the betterment of society or even with the creation of homes, let along molding the lives we would like to lead. This is particularly evident in the way conventional housing neglects the issue of sustainable design.
The majority of people continue to live in homes built by contractors who remain largely uninterested in or unaware of the potential of sustainable design.No one is anti-sustainability, but green building is often also viewed as an extravagance for those few who can afford it. Since the focus of the popular press and even of architectural trade literature is often on high-tech, high-end solutions to environmental problems it isn’t surprising that the addition of the word “green” is assumed to be accompanied by a huge price bump. What good can a few LEED certified houses really do?
Truly sustainable housing is more than just bumping up insulation values and replacing one type of power with another. Ideal housing supports its residents in their endeavors while reducing their economic and environmental impacts wherever possible.
As I write more about Doug and Denise’s house in future posts, I will explore the ways their house can be made green without adding extra cost. Simple choices made at the front end of the design process can have a greater effect than any amount of technological solutions applied after the design is complete. Stay tuned for a discussion of where the house should be sited, and what can be done to make it greener before pen is even laid to paper.
To read more of Della’s thoughts check out her blog at Lost Between the Letters
Categories: Eco architecture