On Green Design

I’m a tree hugger, but I’m leery of the green trend.

For instance, a few years back a green publication named a hybrid SUV the Green Car of the Year.  It gets 20/23 mpg.  While it’s an improvement for the vehicle class and an introduction to great new technology, 20/23 mpg is pretty pathetic to hail as the best new thing in earth-friendly resource conservation.  I hate to think that owners of this vehicle might pat themselves on the back, believing they’re saving the planet.

Similarly, building an 8,000 square foot home for a family of two with bamboo floors and energy star appliances just doesn’t cut it.  (Conversely, I’ve picked up books featuring small green homes only to find most of them have 1 bedroom.  Yes, there is a market, but let’s be practical.)

Let’s zoom way out.  The planet is a closed energy system (with very complex exchange patterns), with the exception of solar radiation.  The burning of fuels by an exponentially increasing number of humans throws the natural patterns out of balance.  The term “green” is frequently interchanged with “environmentally friendly” and “sustainable.”  These terms imply compliance with the natural patterns of energy exchange.  They are misnomers.  The production and relocation of resources in the first world utilizes burned fuels.  So let’s set something straight: considering the environmental friendliness or sustainability, the greenest thing to do is to NOT BUILD at all.

But that’s no fun.  We (collectively) are going to build.  So what we’re really designating is products and construction methods that are less bad than others.

Luckily we have rating systems like LEED, Passive House, the Living Building Challenge, and concepts like Net Zero to qualify the green claim of any building.  These are good guidelines, but following through with accreditation is a costly bragging right.  So we’re not going to.  But we plan to make decisions that take these guidelines into consideration.

More specifically, we will look into:

  • Rainwater Collection for Irrigation
  • Low Flow Fixtures / Dual Flush Toilets
  • Greywater resuse
  • Reused Fixtures
  • Pervious Paving
  • Vegetated Roofing
  • Reflective Roofing
  • Recycled Content Countertops
  • Low Maintenance Long Life Siding
  • Locally Sourced Stone
  • Bamboo Flooring vs. Local Hardwoods
  • Ground Source Heat Pump HVAC
  • Radiant Floor Heating
  • No VOC Finishes
  • CFL & LED Lighting
  • Natural Daylighting
  • High R and Continuous Insulation
  • Air-tight Construction
  • Energy Efficient Doors and Windows
  • Efficient or reused (craigslist) appliances
  • Reused Barn Timbers
  • Reused Stick Framing

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