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Are Futuristic Green Houses Just a Distraction?

greenhouse

We regularly post news about futuristic green housing designs. Now, architect Roger K. Lewis is calling bullshit on the enterprise. Here’s his volley, from The Washington Post:

But how much can cool-looking, zero-carbon houses of the future contribute to meeting the nation’s challenges: creating a healthier environment; achieving energy independence; and arresting climate change by burning less fossil fuel to run vehicles, generate electricity, and heat, cool and light buildings? …Speculating about visionary green houses is tantalizing, but much greater benefits accrue at a larger scale…Focusing on hypothetical designs of free-standing houses can even be a distraction….Fighting sprawl while implementing large-scale sustainability strategies also requires preserving, expanding and retrofitting existing neighborhoods and buildings, including single-family houses. Use of what’s already built saves immeasurable amounts of energy and resources. Transforming neighborhoods, buildings and infrastructure to accommodate new functions may be the best way for architects and the real estate industry to help create a greener planet.

That’s surely a crucial point: There really isn’t much use in talking about green houses if our cities continue to sprawl in all directions, with ever larger single-family houses. On the other hand, it seems totally misplaced. Green design has to enter the public consciousness somehow. We’ll grant that green McMansions–such as the design above–aren’t green if they encourage more driving. But these concepts are a part of a wave popularizing new ideas that can be too thorny for most people to bother with. They also raise our expectations of what a house can–and should–be.

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[Via Treehugger] CK