Green Building gets better with age

I call myself a green builder and as such am constantly thinking what that title means. Possibly one of the best definitions of green building I can think of is this: does it age well?

Green building is meant to be sustainable, meaning it can be repeated on an ongoing basis. Clear cutting trees is not sustainable because eventually you can’t do it anymore. In fact it would eventually kill the whole planet.

The dominant definition of green building is that at the very least it does not harm the planet too badly….minimize¬† impact, reduce carbon emissions, lessen urban sprawl….all lame ass points of view. There is nothing like killing ourselves more slowly to cheer up my day. Go LEED! (sarcasm)

Back to my point: the best green building attitude is to create buildings that get better with time, that improve the world with time.

Take an old European farm house for example. It was made hundreds of years ago from stones that needed to be cleared from the fields for farming. It was made intelligently with good solar design. And it is a damp, dark ice box in the winter.

OK maybe that isn’t such a good example.

Take old wood floors. With the years they get polished by the feet. The scratches become part of the woods fabric. The years of natural oils harden the wood further. With time they become more and more beautiful. That is the essence of Wabi Sabi.

Wabi Sabi always gets better with age.

Contrast this with a laminate floor. It eventually peels at the corners and reveals its true self – crap particle board. Sooner or later age will reveal it for what it is…..and it is nothing.

Green building along the Build It Forward principles actually relies on time to reveal the materials for what they are. When you Build It Forward you build with materials that are good and solid all the way through. Time only reveals another interesting layer, just as good.

But if you take this idea further to where the building structure is built like a corral reef then with time the home’s shell becomes a vibrant ecosystem. At first the building is exposed. But with time the green roof, the living walls, and the surrounding space becomes lush. The heat from the house, the gray water, the gentle help from the gardener all create an idyllic place of safety for the ecosystem that otherwise might dry out, freeze or lack the support from the gardener.

reef

As time goes by the ecosystem becomes more lush and complex. Of course ideally the land wasn’t ruined in the first place, but that is long gone with the Indians. Now we are in an age of recreating nature, like little Nature’s Helpers.

So really there are two ideas here. One is the house as a reef that becomes a rich ecosystem.

The other is the actual building materials becoming better with age in the Wabi Sabi tradition.

About the author: Gennaro Brooks-Church

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