Green Building Principles
Every year when I start my class teaching sustainable design at Ryerson School of Interior Design, I explain that there is no textbook for the course, because nobody has written one that is any good in a field that is changing daily. Next year I will have to qualify that; when it comes to green building, there is now. It's written by Abe Kruger and Carl Seville, AKA the Green Building Curmugeon, and it is very, very good at what it does.
It is focused on the single family residential sector in the United States, and as sick as that industry is, and as much as I think it is a tremendous misallocation of resources, that is where the action is, and that is where green building has to take root. The book acknowledges it, discussing smart growth, rejecting sprawl, talking about right-sizing and the Not So Big Home, but in the end it is a textbook about how to build a detached home better. And it does that better than any book I have seen.
Before I read it, I had a list of "gotcha" questions, where I would try to see how they dealt with some of the controversial issues of green building. Most of the green building industry in America is obsessed with energy conservation, but often ignores issues of durability, embodied energy, air quality, community impact or sustainable site development. They don't here; it covers them all. My bete noir, insulated concrete forms, don't get a free pass because of their embodied energy. Styrofoam gets called out for its fire retardants. They make wonderful use of outside experts, bringing in Alex Wilson of BuildingGreen to throw cold water on radiant floors and Steve Mouzon to explain the very shocking concept of the "comfort range", that you don't actually have to design a house with mechanical systems that stay at 68 degrees all year round. Almost every gotcha that I could think of was there.
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