Living with the Green Monster

The idea of designing, building and living green sounds appealing to those who consider themselves to have a true interest in the environment’s well-being. We want to sustain human life in concert with the impact on our natural wildlife. Today the green building movement is a local and global issue and now has a new authority called the U.S. Green Building Council.

The USGBC website states, “At USGBC, we take how we make our decisions as seriously as the decisions themselves. Our board of directors has articulated a set of guiding principles to provide clarity and continuity in our decision making.”

Great, another group that wants to enable homeowners with the idea of taking care of the environment, being socially responsible, staying healthy, while improving the quality of their lives. This is a splendid idea, one that I can support. But this assumes that today’s homeowners who are building an addition, remodeling a kitchen or building a house will support, agree and follow through on doing the right thing for the future of our planet regardless of what their wallets can afford and what they want their homes to look like.

So how do we live with the “green monster?” You have to go back in time to find some of the answers. The master builders of ancient Egypt designed and built magnificent cities, temples and complex tombs that are still standing today. Their purpose was to build everlasting structures to honor themselves as Pharaohs, but they also wanted to please their gods to ensure a place for themselves and their dynasty in the afterlife.

This idea shows up again in history in the city of Boston. I recently visited King’s Chapel on the Freedom Trail and discovered just how green this building was designed and constructed. The original design called for stone interior columns, but the church could not afford to have them built or shipped from Europe so they decided to make the columns from white pine trees. The trees were 200 years old when they cut them down in 1754 and today they are still gracefully and elegantly standing and will continue to do so into the future.

These two examples give us part of the answer we are looking for. The goal of the Egyptians and the Colonists was to design and build timeless structures that would not have to be replaced for centuries. And many of us have the talent and skills to provide quality design and quality building solutions for our clients.

We can provide quality design like our predecessors did that will stand up to the test of time, by providing the right building products that will resist the forces of nature and the whims of design trends and fads. This will have a positive impact on the environment because the materials will not have to be replaced in the near future. Slapping up a spec home or throwing up an addition using a “light green” mentality might satisfy the minimum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design requirements, but, in the long run, the next homeowner will remodel and/or replace the addition and throw the poorly designed and built structure into a landfill only to start the process all over again.

Making it a goal to design and build with quality is not only less expensive in the long run for the homeowner but it also helps designing, building and living with the green monster.

Joseph Dellanno is the founder of my Design/Build Project, a Web communication application for design and build teams, and president of my Design/Build Coach, providing design/build business training exclusively for residential designers and building professionals. He is also president of Design Solutions Inc., a national design firm providing professional design/build companies award-winning design services. Dellanno can be reached at (781) 648-5548 or Read his past columns at Read Joe’s blog on Look for Blog Zone and click Dellanno Docket.