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Walking the Walk: A Green Builder Responds

Alan’s response to Janet, on the renovation of Apartment #1807

I’m not a fanatic by nature, and I’m really uncomfortable being a scold.  But to be a green builder requires being both.

That’s because for every way to do something green, there are fifty ways to fall short.  Fifty ways to do it faster, more conveniently, more conventionally, and, in many cases, cheaper.  Some, unfortunately, are more glamorous or trendy.  It is fair to say that temptations abound.


The Temptation of Saint Anthony, by David Teniers II

The most difficult challenges are when an impulse for certain architectural elements conflict with a purely green approach.  For example, a large, unsheltered window to the west, to obtain a beautify view, might burden the air conditioning system and cause a spike in the primary energy load.


Yet there are still consequences that derive from our decisions, which go beyond the bounds of any given project.  Those consequences go to the very nature of sustainability—which is simply a way of assessing what we do and what we create—in terms of whether it will compromise the ability of others who follow us to do the same.  Green building is the concept of the 7th Generation, put into action.

The best design may arise from the severest constraint, and the task of the green builder is create beautiful and comfortable spaces within the constraints imposed by sustainability.

Yet we are humans, and our pulse may quicken at the sight of some form or surface that is at odds with sustainability.  I have come to understand that when you seek to achieve absolute purity, to slay all evil, inevitably impurity and evil find a way to prevail—or even multiply.  Murphy’s Law stalks us around every bend, and unintended consequences are the rule and not the exception.  This is the human factor we struggle with.  Like a dieter, sometimes we must indulge in a little chocolate.

So that is the mindset I bring to my projects, and all this will come into play at #1807.