The Greenest Brick is the One That's Already in the Wall

TreeHugger is full of photovoltaic glass and ground source heat pumps, but ultimately all of those "green gizmos", as Donovan Rypkema called them, cost a lot of money to buy and to maintain. But he is just one of a growing movement of architects who are making the case that people have known for hundreds, maybe thousands of years how to build in ways that save energy and adapt to climate instead of trying to bludgeon it into submission. Steve Mouzon is another. He writes:

Originally, before the Thermostat Age, the places we built had no choice but to be green, otherwise people would freeze to death in the winter, die of heat strokes by summer, or other really bad things would happen to them.

Mouzon is crazed about the focus on the gadgetry of green, or Gizmo Green.

This notion that we can simply invent more efficient mechanisms, and throw in some bamboo to boot, is only a small part of real sustainability. First, we must build sustainable places, because it does not matter what the carbon footprint of a building is if you have to drive everywhere in order to live there.

He understands also that while a sustainable building must be durable, flexible and frugal, it must first be lovable,

"because it does not matter how efficiently the building performs if it is demolished and carted off to the landfill in a generation or two because it cannot be loved."

It is a wonderful choice of words.

Lisa Selin Davis in Grist gives some examples of buildings that work:


Take, for instance, the kind of architecture Mouzon prefers to reference, French Acadian -- or Cajun, as it came to be known in Louisiana. These houses were made of locally found cypress wood, which just happened to be naturally mold-resistant and didn't rot in the relentlessly hot, wet weather. They had steeply hipped roofs to keep out the hot sun; the roofs hung over long galleries and porches, which promoted air circulation -- no AC needed. Another style found in New Orleans, the shotgun, has tall windows that help cool the houses naturally. Cape Cods have centrally located fireplaces and low ceilings to heat efficiently during frigid winters.

Mouzon's idea is to make houses work like that again, to respect regional differences and make houses that work with the environments in which they sit. "It's time to put architecture back to work again," he says. "There really ought to be an architecture that is appropriate to regional climates."

More at the Original Green, via Grist

More on the green merits of older buildings:

GreenBuild: Richard Moe Has a Tough Row to Hoe
Diane Keaton on How We Treat Old Buildings Like Plastic Bags
Big Steps in Building: Deconstruct, Don't Demolish
Big Steps in Building: Ban Demolition
Refab Now!

Tags: Ban Demolition | Books | Demolition | Green Building

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