The book Green By Design, Creating a Home for Sustainable Living by Angela Dean is a good exploration of green design and the process behind it.

In green building the process is just as important as the end result. A beautiful home is not beautiful in the green builder’s eyes if the materials are not sourced ecologically. I would go a step further and say if the building process was not a healthy one in terms of the relationships between workers, clients, bosses etc then it is also not worth building.

The book uses building examples with floor plans and photos to show the various elements of green design. The examples are small residential detached buildings, mostly new construction in natural settings.

It is organized by the steps of green design:

Design Intent – You start with a broad look of what you want to achieve
Design Process – You clarify the steps
Design Strategies – You decide on the best options for each step
Design Specifics – You hone in on the details

This is a good process for anything, building or not, green building or not. The difference here is that the scope is broader than normal building. You have more criteria that needs to be met.

In terms of the intent, it can’t just satisfy the home owner. It must satisfy the ecological impact in terms of sourcing and where the material will go when the house is taken down again in the future.

The process involves a more holistic attitude. Usually the different trades communicate more. Or often there are people on the job skilled in more than one trade, a common attribute to a mature green builder.

The strategies involve more elements that wouldn’t be discussed in normal building. For example when choosing gutters to channel the rain it is not just about getting the water off the roof but where to send that water so it gets used correctly instead of it going down the drain.

The design specifics takes the above elements further as you dig down into the design. More detailed elements like type of paint etc. are looked at.

For some reason the diverse house examples made it hard for me to find a cohesive thread through the book. If it had been focused on one style of house maybe it would have drawn me in more.

I am a big advocate of hyper-local geography. I’m passionate about being a green builder in Brooklyn brownstones. It is a very focused geographic area and an even more focused architectural style.

The Brownstone is very well suited for the cultural and ecological geography of Brooklyn. It would not work for a suburb in Santa Fe.

This hyper focus is an extension of thinking globally and acting locally, or in the case of Eco Brooklyn, building green locally. We try to source our materials within the five mile radius of Brooklyn. We builde specifically for the Brooklyn environment. We live in Brooklyn.

This whole amalgamation of elements creates a very green lifestyle both in the way the company works, the way the employees live and ultimately in the way the building gets built.

This is not to say we won’t do a job in Manhattan or elsewhere. Flexibility is crucial to a balanced life. But our essence is Brooklyn based.

So maybe the books attempt at giving a wide range of examples didn’t really connect with me because I didn’t get the sense that the author was looking hard enough at the houses and how they were relevant to the environment in which they were built.

But it definitely covered a broad range of building styles, from cob to rammed earth, and showed great examples of each, even if they were a little in isolation of the larger context.

The book provided overview information on:
o Natural building materials
o Renewable flooring
o Gray water for landscaping
o Local materials and labor
o Energy-efficient systems
o Passive solar design
o Indoor air quality

It is a good book to get a general idea of the different things people have already done in the US and to spark ideas for your next project.