• Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

Title

Last things first

An article in the current (February) issue of Dwell magazine tells of a married couple in the Netherlands -- designers, both -- who built a house using almost entirely salvaged materials found within a 15-km radius of the site.

January 19, 2011
 
 

An article in the current (February) issue of Dwell magazine tells of a married couple in the Netherlands -- designers, both -- who built a house using almost entirely salvaged materials found within a 15-km radius of the site.

Now, building a house out of scrap pieces is nothing new. I know a number of carpenters, for instance, who have built houses entirely out of left-over and salvaged materials. But those scrap houses typically look like scrap heaps -- most of the time, nothing quite fits. They may be robust, but they're funny looking.

The Dutch house isn't funny looking. A bit modernistic for some tastes, perhaps, but aesthetically pleasing and extremely efficient. The designers did allow themselves a little leeway -- a small portion of the materials were virgin -- but the process they followed pretty much assured as much re-use as possible.

See, most designers, when they want to build something "green", first figure out how they want it to look/function/fit together. Then they look for ways to make the thing a bit less unsustainable.

These folks took the opposite tack. They first determined the availability of salvaged (or, perhaps, salvageable) material within their area of interest, and they they designed a house to be built using -- as much as possible -- those specific materials.

I guess the overall point (if I have one) is that even in terms of thought processes, if we keep doing pretty much what we've been doing, we'll keep getting pretty much what we've been getting. If we want to create something significantly different, we need to think in significantly different ways.

Putting that which was last up towards the front of the process strikes me as one way of thinking that's different. And, at least in this case, it turned out to be significant.

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