Building the Ethical Home: Introduction

I have been inspired, following Ted Owens' series on building his own green, straw bale house in New Mexico. I have also been an architect for twenty-five years in a different climate and if one learns from their mistakes, then I have learned a lot. For the last two years while writing for TreeHugger I have been concerned with what passes for "green" in North America; it appears that if it saves energy that is good enough. Thus monster houses get covered in solar panels with the help of government subsidies, and the Wall Street Journal calls a 1.6 million dollar 3,000 square foot country house a model of green design. (No criticism of Arken Tilt Architects intended)

I have been much impressed with Leo Hickman's series in the Guardian newspaper, published in his book A Good Life, about the concept of Ethical Living: " Ethical means above all taking personal responsibility. This in turn means considering the "sustainability" of everything you do- making sure that your actions do not have a negative influence on you or more importantly the wider world. As more and more people around the world, rightly or wrongly, aspire to and obtain western lifestyles, the pressure on natural resources will become even more intense. Therefore, a major tenet of ethical living is to attempt, wherever possible, to reduce one's own demand for resources... Simply, it is a call to consume a fairer and more proportionate slice of the pie. "I have put it more prosaically: "We just use too much of everything- too much space, too much land, too much food, too much fuel, too much money, and that the key to sustainability is to simply use less. And, the key to happily using less is to design things better."

This series will be about building the ethical home. Although virtual, it will follow the traditional method that architects follow: Develop a program, look at precedents and the work of others, analyze systems, select materials and prepare a schematic design.

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