Aeromotor creative commons by-nc-nd 2007 bruce john stracke.

three simple goals

  1. need less,
  2. use less,
  3. produce your own.

need less

Need less is not about going without, or depriving our selves. When building a home ‘need less’ simply recognizes two important issues.

The first is logical: a successful home should be the right size. The spaces and systems should be designed to meet the needs of the family living in them. Even when using the best green and efficient practices building more than we need is wasteful.

The second issue is about connecting with our homes and in my mind is more important. What defines a home are the proportions and detailing. Homes that work take advantage of their space and use it well. People feel more comfortable in spaces that relate to them.

When we begin to think about a new home or remodeling our existing one often our first thoughts relate to more space. The easiest way for builders lower their cost per square foot is to offer homes with bigger rooms and less detailing. While bigger may be the answer, good architectural design and well thought out spaces always offers more from less square footage. It’s about finding the sweet spot where less room would not accomplish what you are setting out to do and more simply isn’t needed. Right sized homes lead to comfortable living.

use less

Sounds intuitive doesn’t it? But using less may be more difficult than we think. According to When Energy Efficiency Sullies the Environment, a New York Times article, creating ways to use less can lead us to use more as a society. Educating ourselves and our clients about good practices is the key to using less.

people have found so many new places to light that today we spend the same proportion of our income on light as our much poorer ancestors did in 1700

— John Tierney

So to be successful we may need to relearn how we use water, energy and resources in general. What’s cool is this can be a fun exploration of our life and how we live. While learning about using less we learn more about ourselves.

produce your own

Even though all our new homes are ready to add energy from photo voltaic PV arrays or wind turbines I often find myself at odds with other designers, builders and homeowners about when to add renewable energy. My view is consistent with sources like the Green Building, the Florida Solar Energy Center and others that, as the pyramids below represent, renewables are the last items to add to a home. While PV arrays and wind turbines are the ‘sexy’ part of green building, designing and constructing a renewable energy system sized for a home that hasn’t first been optimized to need and use less leads to larger, more expensive and wasteful systems. Systems designed this way siphon funds away from important elements that make our homes more comfortable and functional.

It may not be as exciting to focus first on a well built home, but most folks find completing the first two goals often accomplishes what they set out to do without adding renewables. By needing less and using less they reduced the size of their energy footprint to a sustainable level while conserving resources and reducing regular maintenance. They find we have built a renewable ready home they enjoy each day, and that leads to simply comfortable living-
Green Builder Energy PyramidEnergy Policy Pyramid