Guest Post by Della Hansmann
Last Friday I wrote a guest post about green building suggesting that one benefit of building bank-free would be to delete those elements from the standard kit of home parts that don’t pertain specifically to your life. I think its very important to design the house you want to live in without being bullied into un-necessary extras, but commenter Jon Brouchoud of Crescendo Design raised this excellent point:
No matter how much us like-minded folks dislike it, it seems pretty clear that the vast majority of people actually do, in fact, enjoy those houses, for whatever reason. […] No matter what I wish the market was like, I’m afraid the vast majority still want some variation of beige and granite.
I agree. It is sad but true that many Americans do prefer quantity over quality in many arenas including their houses, however I don’t think this means that designers or people who want green homes should stop bucking the system. I don’t see any reason to bow to the granite and beige crowd based on the argument that what’s popular is what’s popular, and that’s that. The second half of Jon’s argument is exactly my point. He says:
A well-built home should be able to serve several generations of owners – not just one. If this is the case, then building a home that is perfectly suited to a single homeowner’s desired design goals runs the risk of falling short in future generations that seek to modify, update, or improve it to better suit their own functions and tastes. Especially if 8 out of 10 in the market prefer beige. If a new home isn’t flexible, simple (generic?) enough to accommodate change over time, by a diverse range of homeowners, it runs the risk of neglect, or even demolition – no matter how much it goes against our own aesthetic grain.
I totally agree that to be green, a house must serve multiple generations. Building green is about building to last – that means good materials, good design and long-term thinking. And that’s exactly why the latest trends don’t matter as much as we think they do.
To the next generation of home owners, granite and beige finishes are going to look just as dated as the “avocado” and “harvest gold” appliances that are being ripped out to make room for the current fad. Design must try to be more universal.
Building Green is Building for the Future
That’s why it is important to think about the long-term when making your design choices. A good “green building” should incorporate Accessible Design principles so that it can continue to be useful for either the original owners or future ones who might have a disability. It should be sited well (no flood planes, folks) and well-built using materials meant to last or easily maintained and repaired. And it should be built to use minimal resources to heat and cool. (The best way to do this is to enclose less space to heat and cool.)
Building for the future does not mean every floor plan must include space for the proverbial two and a half kids and a golden retriever … and an aged mother in law.
A growing number of new home buyers are single (in some areas a majority of new home are purchased by individuals rather than families – see this anecdotal example). According to realtor.org, “Twenty percent of recent home buyers were single females, and 10 percent were single males.” Some, if not all, of these people will be looking for smaller homes to make their own.
Similarly (according to McGraw-Hill Construction Research and Analytics), from 2005-2008, the value of green building construction starts had increased five times. This growth must also represent a market of people who will be increasingly interested in buying green homes.
You can sell your green car … why not your green house?
Another commenter from last week’s post reminded me of the Henry Ford maxim: “You can have any color you want as long as its black.” Now you can have any color you want, as well as any size and style of car (from hybrid coupe to monster truck).
The huge SUVs (the very cars that have been so popular) have become harder to sell as gas prices rise and low mileage cars are now leading the pack. Could this presage a surge in buyer interest for small, fuel-efficient houses?
Ask yourself, have you ever known the banks to be wrong? With their track record — do you really want them inflating the size of your home, along with your fuel bills, your taxes and your indebtedness?
Categories: Eco architecture