A House to Nurture the World and You
My House History
I grew up in an “old standard” house built in the ’20s. My father, a gifted carpenter, treated our house as a continual project practically from the ground up, so I’ve seen every part of a house’s innards. Ours in particular contained newspapers as insulation from the ’40s and ’50s, an old roof (complete with 13 layers of shingles) over which previous owners had built the current roof, and a crack-webbed cement foundation with half-century-old names scrawled into it. Years and a series of demolition projects later, my childhood home contains high, creatively angled ceilings and a rainbow of hues from room to room.
The House Within
Houses are magic. Many of us spend dozens of hours a week sheltered by their walls, and, when working nearby outside, gaze back at them with quiet gratitude as storms begin to rise. In Building Green, Clarke Snell and Tim Callahan beautifully describe our deep connection to shelter. A house isn’t just a box to sleep in; it’s a vital extension of who we are and what we believe.
Modern neighborhoods–full of cookie-cutter boxes–are designed for the market, not for people. They provide no glimpse at the quality or cares of the stunning spirit(s) within.
However, green building changes everything.
An Amazing Array of Alternatives
When 90% or more of Americans (and perhaps inhabitants of other countries) hear “house,” they think of a stick-frame design. Drywall, 2″x4″s, and fiberglass insulation are common words most folks have encountered. Green building can involve these materials, but our flavor does not.
We feel drawn to such “exotic” options as cob, rammed earth, earth bag, and much more. Currently, we’re most enchanted by the rounded earth bag home to your left. Dreamed up by one of our new favorite people, Owen Geiger (whose green building blog you can find at the link), this 678 sq. ft. house features a vaulted living room and half-loft whose balcony we fully intend to run dense with living vines. We might even build a rainwater catchment, gray water recycling, indoor-plant-watering-and-filtration fish pond (aquaponics), but that’s one of our more ambitious ideas. 🙂
It doesn’t look like much in this picture, but the outside walls will be textured and colored with earthen tones. The roof could come to life. We could even dig into a hillside and build an earth berm to more effectively thermo-regulate the inside of the house. Green building is an intensely personal, meaningful, and creative process. It is also deeply complex.
A Vast New (or Very Old) World of Ideas
If you’re new to green building (like we were only a few years ago), and took a look at some of those links, you might feel a bit dizzy right now. I know I still feel that way. Why do we have to work so very hard, and master thousands of “new” concepts, just to live the lifestyle we want, that nurtures the world? Shouldn’t living an earth-healthy lifestyle come naturally, as it seems to have centuries ago?
I’ll leave that topic for a future post. For now, tell me, after digesting these words, what are your thoughts on “green building?” What do you think are its implications for the world? What was your house like growing up?