Love the Green Roof. But Is It An Example of Green Design?


Images credit Olson Kundig Architects

We have been having a little internal debate about what makes a building green enough to get on TreeHugger. Sometimes it is hard to tell; we gave Tom Kundig the 2009 Best of Green prize for "doing the right thing without hitting you over the head." Usually having a green roof is a free pass, but I passed on Kundig's Pierre when it first hit the design blogs last fall, green roof notwithstanding.

pierre kundig green roof house photo

Usually tend to think of green building as treading lightly on the earth; this certainly doesn't.

To set the house deep into the site, portions of the rock outcropping were excavated using a combination of machine work and handwork. The contractor used large drills to set the outline of the building, then used dynamite, hydraulic chippers, a selection of wire saws and other hand tools, working with finer and finer implements as construction progressed.

pierre kundig green roof house photo

There certainly are green elements, from the reuse of excavated rock in the concrete and the green roof. And I like Tom Kundig so much that it even gets by my aversion to showing big second homes in the country. But it is a stretch to call it green. More images at Olson Kundig

Is Prefab Green?

Rm w/a Vu, Paris, $ 616/nuit

We write about prefab being green because it creates less waste and can be more energy efficient, but you probably can't call a plastic prefab hotel room popped on a roof in Paris for a month very green. But we do like innovation, design, small spaces and pop-up instant architecture. The fact that it was prefab got it on the site, but really, I just thought it was very cool.

Is Shipping Container Architecture Green?

Shipping Containers Top Off Artist's Studio

If anyone showed me a house built with the kinds of rust resistant paints and insect resistant treated woods that are used on shipping containers I would say that they were crazy to live with such toxic stuff. When I see containers with so much of the walls and floors cut away that there is barely any container left, I have to wonder if it was done for any reason other than show. But they are "recycled" so they are considered green.

Are Garden Sheds Green?

Summerhouse by Ullmayer Sylvester Architects

One can certainly make the case that they tread lightly, provide space and privacy, that they let people work from home instead of commuting. Or they can just be beautiful and expensive garden accessories for the very wealthy, as this one is. But because I love showing beautifully designed small spaces, it get a pass.

Are Temporary Pop-ups Green?

Pop-Up Restaurants Popping Up All Over

This amazing restaurant had a lifespan of exactly three weeks; that is a lot of energy and effort for such a short time. On the other hand, most restaurants have a huge investment and fail, so that building a temporary one is probably greener, especially if all of the components can be reused. It is probably full all the time, leading to higher efficiency.

Is Being Green Enough To Get On TreeHugger?


Image Credit Palazzo

I didn't have to troll Google for long to find a really ugly monster hotel in Las Vegas that was certified LEED Silver. No building where people fly into the desert for the purpose of gambling is ever going to be on a TreeHugger where I edit design, even if it is LEED certified.

In the end, defining what is green enough for TreeHugger is difficult; our content is curated by editors and writers with personal opinions, tastes and many different views of what is green. That diversity is what makes it interesting, I hope.

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