The book “New Green Homes” by Sergi Costa Duran, Liliana Bollini and Ethel Pohl is a focused book. It is an architects visual study of modern homes around the world. They claim the homes are green but I didn’t really see that.
What I did see was a study of a very specific architectural style, and a beautiful one at that.
The green movement in my eyes has two distinct styles: The Hobbit aesthetic and the glass box aesthetic.
This book falls squarely in the glass box look. In fact, the book is a manifesto for that style.
The glass box aesthetic is of course very minimalist and modern. It looks like the future. It has lots of concrete, glass and steel. Wood is purely decorative, if present at all.
The pros of such a design from a green perspective is that you get wonderful solar gain. The sun shines in through the windows and heats up the concrete slab. And you get great cross breeze in the summer. Just slide open the glass walls and your home becomes a shaded area in nature.
And probably most importantly the homes are beautiful. They are sleek and unobtrusive, letting the surrounding nature be the star.
The cons is that they have a lot of windows and concrete floors. In the winter they can be a bitch to heat. A glass wall is R6 at best, and that would be one EXPENSIVE wall to build. Combine that with concrete and you have cold floors and cold walls.
Radiant flooring is deffinitely one green element you need in these structures if in a cold climate. These homes work best in temperate climates where the sun is neither too weak nor too strong.
As far as being green, I have one major issue with these homes: they are not cheap to make and they have a lot of embodied energy. They also tend to be large, mostly because it is wealthier people who can afford to build them.
For this reason, even if you want to call them green, I don’t think they are sustainable in their current state of evolvement. And I think to call the book “New Green Homes” is a little incorrect.
Also as the title suggests, these are new construction. As long as we have old buildings in need of green renovations, new construction is not green.
The book is however a great visual journey around the world. Like five star hotels that look identical no matter where you are on the globe, these “New Green Homes” also look like they were all designed by the same architect for the same rich client.
That is not to say the architect and client didn’t have great taste, if a little tunnel visioned.