Traditional Green Design- Part One

This is the first in a series of posts to come on green design.

Part One- defining Traditional Green Design

About once a year we have a client who asks about green design. Our answer is always yes, but we start by having a conversation about what that means in Alaska. At a very basic level when we refer to 'green design' or green products most people understand that they should be better for the planet. To green design we can add the idea of sustainability. We might say a green project should use locally sourced material made in non-polluting factories, the building should be energy efficient, be healthy for occupants, perhaps be located to allow walking to work or stores, and should last a long time so we don't have to repeat the process again every 30 years or so. 

The problems in Alaska today include or climate, remoteness, the lack of manufacturing, and houses that are rarely sited or designed appropriately. 

So how do we approach green design? We call it Traditional Green Design; and although traditional sounds like it is seemingly at odds with the idea of green,  let's consider what we mean by that with an example. 

The generic story of an early homesteader in Alaska is a great place to start when discussing Traditional Green Design. The homesteader who cleared some land, sites their small cabin to be sheltered from the weather, faces some windows towards the South, utilizes the cleared trees for their home, while importing few materials from outside has achieved some semblance of green design. Better still if they didn't own a vehicle, but utilized trusty Huskies and sleds for travel. If the cabin lasts their lifetime and at some point they install a more efficient woodstove, they have probably achieved a greener product and life cycle than most of the construction in Alaska today. 

In Part Two we will examine what challenges both the homesteader and modern Alaskans face when building a green home.