Architect Frank Harmon On The Modern Myths of Green Design

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Image Credit Frank Harmon Architect

Press releases often take a short trip from my inbox to trash, but the one from Raleigh, NC architect Frank Harmon caught my eye with its title Architect Frank Harmon Debunks Modern Myths about Sustainable Design. Known to TreeHugger for his Prairie Ridge Eco-Station, what he calls "myths" are hardly that, but worth repeating anyway.

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Image credit Frank Harmon

Some of his Myths:

Myth #1: Sustainable buildings require complicated technology and exotic hardware.

Reality: "The most important sustainable decision we can make for any building is its orientation on its site: how it faces the sun for natural daylight, opens to the cooling breezes for natural ventilation, and shelters its inhabitants from cold winter winds," he said. "Site orientation may be 'low-tech,' but it is the key principle of sustainability that many people don't consider when they think that sustainable design is complicated or exotic. Farmers have always practiced sustainable design for their homes and barns without even knowing they were doing. They had to. It was common sense then. It still is today."

Ah, Common sense over gizmo green.

Myth #2: Sustainable buildings require expensive, unusual materials.

Reality: "Ordinary, locally produced materials, and how we use them without waste, produce sustainable buildings," Harmon said. "For example, sturdy juniper shingles were a sustainable choice for the cottages built on the Outer Banks. Simple Southern yellow pine is a sustainable choice for a house in Charleston.

"In fact," he added, "over 75 percent of what makes a building sustainable is contained in its orientation and in its 'bones - in the materials it is made of. There's nothing high-tech or unusual about that."

Harmon continues with a few more myths, noting that sustainable buildings are neither expensive or weird, and that they make a big difference:

Myth #5: I can build a sustainable house, office, or school, but it won't make any difference.

Reality: "Nothing could be farther from the truth," Harmon said. "Forty percent of the energy used in America today is consumed in buildings. That's more than the entire transportation system -- cars, airplanes, trucks, etc. - put together. Buildings also consume 30 percent of our fresh water and 25 percent of all our wood products. So if you want to make a difference, buildings are the best place to start. And you'll have a more enjoyable place in which to live, work, and learn because of it."

Nicely put. More at Frank Harmon Architect
More on Simple Green:
For Saving Energy, Like Real Estate, The Three Most Important Things Are Location, Location and Location : TreeHugger
Quote of the Day: Witold Rybczynski on The Green Case for Cities : TreeHugger
The Greenest Brick is the One That's Already in the Wall : TreeHugger

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