People often ask what I think of this or that piece of new “green” technology. It’s as if achieving sustainability in our homes is primarily a technical matter — for example, adding the right kind of heat pump or solar panels. I won’t disagree that technology has a role to play. However, this role is relatively small and comes much later in the game, after many other less obvious but more significant steps.
This is illustrated in the following “twelve-step” approach to sustainability, a methodology that starts with values (what really matters to me, how important is it to be living sustainably?). Then we consider the land, nature and the availability of energy on the site. From there, we proceed to design questions, before finally getting around to the solar panels and the heat pumps.
The last step, which concerns lifestyle choices in the context of the home, may be a surprise. But a home that doesn’t support sustainable living choices (such as recycling, gardening, or conservation) is falling short of its potential. Such a home is merely a “green” accessory to an otherwise highly-consumptive and wasteful lifestyle.
So, here’s my list. These points are elaborated further in this PDF article: TwelveAxioms . As always, I welcome your feedback!
1. CONSIDER SHARING SPACE WITH OTHERS: Two can live almost as cheaply as one. Same goes for space and energy.
2. CHOOSE THE BEST LOCATION: Access to transit, walkability, community, sun, good soil, local amenities all lighten the load.
3. DESIGN WITH NATURE: Protect other environmental values and work with what nature provides.
4. THINK SMALL: How much Space do you really need?
5. SITE IT RIGHT: Optimize placement & form for energy performance.
6. MAKE IT SNUG AND TIGHT: Optimize the building envelope for Energy Performance
7. USE LOCAL MATERIALS: Build from locally-sourced, low-entropic, non-toxic and recyclable materials.
8. BUILD IT TO LAST: Detail and construct for durability & adaptability.
9. WASTE NOT: Optimize use of water & energy and minimize household wastes. Waste = food.
10. HEAT & COOL NATURALLY: Choose heat and power systems with renewable energy sources.
11. MAKE IT BEAUTIFUL: Design with Grace for enduring enjoyment and value.
12. LIVE LIKE THERE’S A TOMORROW: Support sustainable behavior with good design and sustainable design with good behavior.