How many times have you heard someone say, or read an article in which someone is quoted as saying, “Green building is just good building?” I’ve heard it many times, and I believe it’s a true statement. If you’ve ever attended an educational seminar of any kind on green home building, chances are good you’ve heard this concept put forth in some way.
It’s also likely you’ve heard a story about homeowners who complain about too much sun, and therefore too much heat in their home. One solution would be to position their house in such a way to minimize direct east and/or west window exposure. Or in the case of a remodel, planting trees and/or installing awnings that effectively shade the overexposed windows can solve the problem. Yes, these solutions are green, but they’re also just smart.
Do these simple tricks require a rocket scientist or some fancy new building material to implement? No. All they require is some thought and planning. The same goes for many other effective green practices: using dominant breeze patterns to naturally ventilate a home; detaching the garage to eliminate harmful fume infiltration; and building tightly and sealing properly to ensure no air leakage occurs. All of these ideas make good sense provided enough time is allotted to apply them before design begins.
Stephen Dynia, AIA, the architect who designed the home featured in the House of Contrasts Unites with Nature , took advantage of natural light, natural breezes and the capacity of concrete to absorb the sun’s energy and release it at night as a way to heat the home. The result is a comfortable, luxurious living environment that saves energy and embraces nature (and a truly unbelievable view, in my opinion).
Something else I’ve heard from a few remodelers over the years is that much of remodeling involves fixing bad building. Similarly, many green building practices and products have evolved from solutions to bad building. As architects, designers and builders continue to learn from mistakes and improve the homes they design and build, we will reach a day on which there will be no need for referring to a home as being green, and instead simply refer to it as a well-built home.
The green movement — which is much larger than the green home building movement — will end some day and cease to be news when its purpose, for the most part, has been achieved. Being green will become a part of everyday life and will no longer require additional thought. Homeowners will expect their homes to have been built using sustainable materials in an efficient, non-wasteful way, and that their homes will save energy, water and ultimately money. That will be a great day.