Sustainable Architecture and Design: A Book Review of Living Homes
Whether it’s here at the lake, elsewhere, or both, my husband and I know we want to build a home from scratch some day. We also know we want to do our ecological part when we do so. With all of the information floating around out there, our heads were starting to spin whenever we looked into the subject. So when a colleague at Chronicle asked if I was interested in checking out a review copy of their new green design title by Suzi Moore McGregor and Nora Burba Trulsson, I was truly relieved that some guidance might be in my immediate future. Read on to see what I learned, and whether this book is for you.
Basically, this book covers four main categories of sustainable architecture, gives some real life examples of each, and addresses the circulation (and consequently health) differences between modern construction practices and certain indigenous methods. It also provides some seriously attention-grabbing information regarding the data on global energy use for buildings in general.
For example, according to the Worldwatch Institute, an organization featured in the introduction, buildings account for forty percent of all material resource flow in the global economy, and forty percent of all the energy use. Forty. Damn. Percent. I don’t know about you, but this figure completely blew me away.
When I think about how many people in the third and developing worlds don’t even live in structures, and how many others are living in tribal or scavenged housing, the thought of what it will take to construct housing for those in emerging economies . . . the mental picture is staggering. Granted, the book addresses that these figures account for the waste and resources consumed throughout the entire life cycle of a building, rather than just construction costs. But how long have these numbers gone unaddressed and unrecognized? Particularly when an apparent and jaw dropping forty percent of our entire planetary wealth is spent on structures alone. Shocking. At least for me.
Four types of sustainable design?
Familiar at least in name to many, this construction method has been used in many places around the world for thousands of years. Clearly not a design fad. It does however, require a certain number of sunny days for the bricks to form. So this eliminates certain climates from being eligible. For lots of individuals though, this is certainly an eco friendly and (if you can embrace DIY bricks) affordable option.
Also used for thousands of years, this technique has the capacity of being used as far north as the latitudes of France, Germany and England. Rammed Earth is also quite flexible as a medium and has been used in private executive-style residences, factories, churches and third world housing. It can cost a bit more than adobe however, so make sure you are comfortable paying the extra premium for ecological responsibility. Concerned about the differences in design parameters between this and adobe? It’s covered.
Though it apparently took some time before industry big-wigs considered it worthy of financing, insurance and building permits, straw bale construction is finally coming into it’s own, according to these authors who also cover the differences between the two main types of straw bale wall assembly. Of note? These buildings are only suitable for certain types of climates, so make sure yours qualifies.
This category includes reinvented, recycled and high tech materials, combined with local resources. Definitely suitable for a loft-style interior, this style promotes the use of salvaged pieces, industry by-products, and all of the latest technology and sustainable products. Loads of room for creativity with this option, and certainly useable in various climates.
Curiosity, economics, ecological responsibility, design preference . . . whatever your reasons for exploring sustainable architecture, I think you’ll find more here than in your average coffee table book. I know I sure did.
Particularly recommended to those just starting to consider their eco building options and those curious about the interior design options for each.