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Building Green Homes

  • <p>
Steve Glenn's home in Santa Monica California is the first LEED Platinum-certified single-family house in the country, featuring gray water to irrigate the lawn, and produces near-zero greenhouse-gas emissions. 
</p>
  • <p>
"I realized that developers, not architects, control what gets created in the built environment," Glenn said. In response, the tech executive is rolling out a line of extreme-green homes similar to his own with KieranTimberlake, an architectural firm that focuses on sustainable design. 
</p>
  • <p>
Cost is the biggest challenge when it comes to green living, Glenn says. At $250 per square foot for 2,500 square feet (plus another $40,000 for the foundation), the grand total was more than $765,000 to build (not including the price of the land). Glenn's next challenge: green design that's more affordable. 
</p>
  • <p>
Building a house is expensive, and constructing an environmentally friendly home is astronomical. Glenn's solution for the average American is prefabricated construction. "Prefab allows you to build a house with smaller thresholds for tolerance," Glenn says, "and a tighter energy envelope." Prefab allows expensive up-front costs for green components to be amortized across many homes and mitigates extra rubble left behind, which account 30% of landfills. The Cellophane House (pictured) is on display this summer at New York's Museum of Modern Art. 
</p>
  • <p>
Matthew Berman (left) and Andrew Kotchen (right) are architects with a cause: reducing the impact of housing on the environment. 50% of all greenhouse-gas emissions are building-related. Yet even as the housing market falls apart, McGraw-Hill Construction predicts that the green market building market will grow from $12 billion this year to between $40 billion and $70 billion by 2012. "There's this grumbling," Berman says, "It grows, it brings things to the center, and then you get this explosion." 
</p>
  • <p>
Berman and Kotchen have won accolades for their work, including a competition sponsored by Global Green USA and actor Brad Pitt to design "zero energy" housing in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. Their firm, Workshop/apd, will oversee the construction of their "GREEN.O.LA," which includes five single-family houses and 18 apartments. The units feature solar panels, rainwater-collection systems and trellises to keep the interiors cool. "Good design is inherently more efficient and uses less materials," Kotchen says. 
</p>
  • <p>
A McGraw-Hill construction study estimates that by 2010 as many as 10% of all American housing starts will incorporate energy-conserving features and appliances, including low-flush toilets and more-efficient heating and cooling systems. However, it will take a serious shift in American culture to push green living to the common homeowner. "Sustainability is a cultural problem, embedded in unsustainable lifestyles," says Wilfried Wang, a chair of architecture at the University of Texas at Austen. 
</p>
  • 01 /07

    Steve Glenn's home in Santa Monica California is the first LEED Platinum-certified single-family house in the country, featuring gray water to irrigate the lawn, and produces near-zero greenhouse-gas emissions.

  • 02 /07

    "I realized that developers, not architects, control what gets created in the built environment," Glenn said. In response, the tech executive is rolling out a line of extreme-green homes similar to his own with KieranTimberlake, an architectural firm that focuses on sustainable design.

  • 03 /07

    Cost is the biggest challenge when it comes to green living, Glenn says. At $250 per square foot for 2,500 square feet (plus another $40,000 for the foundation), the grand total was more than $765,000 to build (not including the price of the land). Glenn's next challenge: green design that's more affordable.

  • 04 /07

    Building a house is expensive, and constructing an environmentally friendly home is astronomical. Glenn's solution for the average American is prefabricated construction. "Prefab allows you to build a house with smaller thresholds for tolerance," Glenn says, "and a tighter energy envelope." Prefab allows expensive up-front costs for green components to be amortized across many homes and mitigates extra rubble left behind, which account 30% of landfills. The Cellophane House (pictured) is on display this summer at New York's Museum of Modern Art.

  • 05 /07

    Matthew Berman (left) and Andrew Kotchen (right) are architects with a cause: reducing the impact of housing on the environment. 50% of all greenhouse-gas emissions are building-related. Yet even as the housing market falls apart, McGraw-Hill Construction predicts that the green market building market will grow from $12 billion this year to between $40 billion and $70 billion by 2012. "There's this grumbling," Berman says, "It grows, it brings things to the center, and then you get this explosion."

  • 06 /07

    Berman and Kotchen have won accolades for their work, including a competition sponsored by Global Green USA and actor Brad Pitt to design "zero energy" housing in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. Their firm, Workshop/apd, will oversee the construction of their "GREEN.O.LA," which includes five single-family houses and 18 apartments. The units feature solar panels, rainwater-collection systems and trellises to keep the interiors cool. "Good design is inherently more efficient and uses less materials," Kotchen says.

  • 07 /07

    A McGraw-Hill construction study estimates that by 2010 as many as 10% of all American housing starts will incorporate energy-conserving features and appliances, including low-flush toilets and more-efficient heating and cooling systems. However, it will take a serious shift in American culture to push green living to the common homeowner. "Sustainability is a cultural problem, embedded in unsustainable lifestyles," says Wilfried Wang, a chair of architecture at the University of Texas at Austen.

Steve Glenn's home in Santa Monica California is the first LEED Platinum-certified single-family house in the country, featuring gray water to irrigate the lawn, and produces near-zero greenhouse-gas emissions.

A version of this article appeared in the July/August 2008 issue of Fast Company magazine.