Green building what?
For all the hoopla, I have to say I’m still waiting for the green building movement to do something seriously spectacular. Sure we can play around with creature comforts and operating impacts by correcting building efficiency. However, until we address the fundamental problems associated with the construction industries destructive nature, we are pretending to make a degree of change in our heading.
Our highest environmental regard for buildings should be reserved for those that come from, exist in and return to a regions environment with grace. The platinum standard should be reserved for buildings that return to the earth as compost feeding future generations.
Don’t get me wrong, certain things, plumbing for example will be more effectively produced from bio-plastics then from the bamboo in your back yard, at least for now. Certain creature comforts like flat screen tvs and gas ranges are also still better produced in a responsible manner by the global market.
I see a future where regional building material hubs provide earthen mixes for floors. Or perhaps it’s Home Depot’s offering of regionally produced clay based paints. It’s not that we need to, or could turn away from the global economy and effect change, It’s likely these systems will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
So perhaps we need to reinvent the franchise model and create more co-operative operating systems. New systems where the production standards, market access and financing are available to regional producers. Perhaps it’s social capital investors backing these endeavors to elevate natural materials from hobbit house status to standard home building practice.
With traditions thousands of years old and modern engineering standards already developed for many of them, natural materials have a place in our futures, it’s up to us to decide what form that takes. Let’s focus a few million dollars of investment in closing the building code and materials standards circle to assure we have a planet to look forward to.
Co-author of the book “Preserving Haiti’s Gingerbread Houses” and owner of the The Natural Builders, works as a consultant for development agencies and emerging technology companies when he’s not building things.