Cohousing Communities are leading the way in green housing and compact designs that don't contribute to sprawl. Cohousing involves owning one's own house while sharing common areas in the center of the development, as well as a building that often includes a workshop, dining area, music practice area, etc. One of the members of the Frogsong Cohousing Community in Cotati, CA, is selling their condo. Nearly all cohousing communities are employing green building, renewable energy, and water conservation as a given.
I dare you to take a look at this Low Impact Woodland Home and tell me that you wouldn't want to live there, or at least stay there for awhile. Every fantasy of what "home" means: harmony, non-domination, anti-consumerism, protection, peace, and comfort all resonate from this design. I wouldn't feel bad about creating a new footprint in the woods if it were a footprint like this one.
The city of Madison, WI just passed an ordinance allowing city dwellers to keep chickens as pets or for the eggs they produce. Bloomington, Indiana, a college town I have praised before, also allows up to five hens. USA Today reports that this is part of a growing trend.
David is reading Natural Home Heating and recommends it highly -- comprehensive and up to date, it's a great information resource for both new and retrofit homes.
"...well-organized, easy-to-understand tour of all available renewable home-heating options, including wood, pellet, corn and grain-fired stoves, fireplaces, furnaces and boilers as well as masonry heaters, active and passive solar systems, and heat pumps....everything you need to know about the fuels, systems, technologies, costs, and advantages and disadvantages of each option. Pahl teaches homeowners how to retrofit existing heating systems and choose renewable replacements, or design an entirely new house that can be heated comfortably with minimal environmental and financial impact."
Chelsea Green Publishing is a fine publishing house offering a wide selection of up-to-date and useful information on green building. I met the publishers at the Green Festival in Chicago and saw their latest selections.
Friday's New Homes section in the Chicago Tribune showed how the term "green" has been completely co-opted; builder Robert Lord is creating a six bedroom, six bath, 11,000 square foot "green" home with multiple garage spaces, which will sell for $3.9 million. Just let that sink in for a moment. Even the Real Estate reporter was a little skeptical, asking: "But isn't the essence of going green making less of a footprint on the Earth?" As he ticked off the list of "green features" in this St. Charles, IL home, the builder pointed out that the buyer would save "as much as $7,000 annually" using his geothermal heating system. Well, yes, it's easy to 'save' money on energy when you are spending a king's ransom on it in the first place....After nearly choking onmy breakfast at the sheer obscenity of building a house like this in the middle of valuable farmland, I was heartened by another story on the same page.
Developer Gerald Snowden is reclaiming a former junkyard in downtown Traverse City, MI and turning it into a mixed-use building with shops, offices, and residences.
"Hans Voss, executive director of the Michigan Land Use Institute, praised the idea of reusing an inner-city location instead of gobbling up another cherry orchard on the outskirts of town. 'Putting up a green building where everyone drives 20 miles back and forth is not nearly as sustainable as putting it downtown where we can walk and not burn fuel to do our daily activities,' Voss said."
The builder is developing the site to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards established by the U.S. Green Building Council. Way to go, dude.
Today's online Wall Street Journal documents the growing trend to locate development near transit hubs, a no-brainer idea seems to be finally taking hold:
"Now, developer Alex Conroy is planning a $700 million transit-oriented development that will include housing, offices, retailing, hotels and entertainment on 60 acres in downtown Naugatuck. The Conroy Development Co. plans call for rubber-tire trolleys, jitneys and buses to provide connections to the Naugatuck stop on the commuter rail line that runs into New York, so that cars won't be necessary for those working, living and shopping in the development."
Now if we could only make those new buildings super-energy efficient and green, green, green. And if we could only increase the penetration of mass transit in general.
The Garden Atriums at Poquoson, VA utilize one of my all-time favorite house designs: an interior garden. However, since the house is not in sunny Spain, the garden must have a glass roof....Perhaps it's because I spent too much time staying at Hyatt Hotels, but the word "atrium" has always given me the creeps. Nevertheless, there is a genuine attempt to conserve with features such as:
Passive solar design
PV solar to generate electricity
"Special coated glass" over the atrium
Rainwater harvesting to supply virtually all water needs
(No energy performance information is provided.) Still, it sure beats the classic American suburban house planted in the middle of a grass lawn.....