Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Is Your American Dream a Ghost Story?

What is the American Dream? Hard work and a house. Freedom to drive what you want, where you want, when you want and to shop 'til you drop. The freedom to do what you want to your suburban plot. Really, work and shopping are just sidelines. The dream itself centers around the "single detached" house on a quarter acre (or more) of land, not exactly rural and not truly urban.

I find Americans' desires and drive to build sprawling new homes and to do major remodels spooky. And I grew up in a house that was always "under construction," never finished, far from it, often with studs and ceilings exposed, a bathroom or kitchen gutted. My parents are never "get it done" people. They're more dumpster divers for and amassers of building parts than they are "finished product" types, and the old broken doors and tubs and piles of found trim pieces just keep piling up.

I see that very American, especially American urge not just to tinker but to tear out load carrying walls in my parents as well as in my brother and sister, who have the means to hire contractors and even architects. (I am not immune to remodeling dreams myself, but my more monkish lifestyle has kept the crowbars and ditch witches at bay).

Today's "green tip" at the Sierra Club's The Green Life suggests home-remodel wannabees find a builder who is certified-green when they want to build or remodel. Well, maybe that is better than not, but let's get to the bottom line: When is construction conservation?

Answer: when it is strictly preservation.

Here's what I offered to the discussion:

No matter how you look at it, consuming more (even to repair things that are merely worn or out of fashion or "too small") is not the same as genuine conservation. No matter what sentiment and desire tell you, true conservation means LESS not more.

EVEN MORE GREEN than choosing to do a major remodel (which is building NEW on a supposedly smaller scale in an attached mode) is choosing to NOT build new and to NOT remodel -- certainly not in any major way -- but simply to refurbish, to protect what is there without adding on more rooms, more square feet or fancier features. The only area where home refurbishing might really be considered more sustainably GREEN is in the upgrading of insulation (including attic, walls and windows) and in the upgrading of old a/c and heating units. New, insulated and/or metal roofs with rainwater collection systems could also be considered a worthwhile move toward conservation and care, but watch out for consumptive construction projects labeled "green." Meanwhile, enjoy living with less. Thanks to those who do.


At 10/31/2007 6:17 PM, Blogger 1rfruth said...

Been to greenbuildingdotcom ? it like ABN is good, keep it up !


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