Q: As the founder and principal at OrganicArchitect.com you educate about the reasons we need green buildings, saying the places where we live and work are contributing to climate change. That’s a pretty big challenge to overcome, yet you tell everyone who asks that building greener doesn’t have to cost more. How do you know that Americans are finally buying this message?
A: “It’s not a big challenge, as it is a problem we created ourselves.
It’s funny, but if aliens attacked Earth and polluted our air, acidified our oceans, and melted our polar ice caps, we’d spend billions fighting them and repairing the damage. But since all of that damage was a byproduct of a multi-trillion dollar energy industry, we deny the threat of climate change.
Building green and responsibly actually does not cost more. My clients all have strict budgets, and we have to stick to those budgets. My budgets don’t magically go up because my clients want a healthy and energy efficient building! The people who say that “green buildings cost more” are the ones who are doing it wrong, or have never worked on one. That’s why half my work is consulting to other people on how to build net zero buildings.”
Q: You’ve lectured about some pretty ambitious ideas, like net zero energy homes, living buildings, and turning blighted city blocks into urban farms. Where is the threshold where ideas or showcase projects like those must become commonplace?
A: “The simple fact is that our buildings are responsible for half of our carbon emissions, and consume 40 percent of our energy and materials. Just because we’ve been ignorant of those impacts for so long doesn’t mean we can keep continuing to build this way. We have to set a goal of every building being a living, regenerative building. Every building must be a net zero building. (Incidentally, that’s why California is requiring all new homes to be net zero energy by 2020.)
We can’t afford to keep clear cutting materials, shipping them thousands of miles, injecting them with toxic binders and adhesives, and wasting energy in the process. Architects and builders have known about the damage we create for decades now, and we’ve run out of time.
The good news is that the ideas I’ve been sharing with people create opportunities. Any builder or developer ignoring these sustainability ideas is missing out on a real opportunity to make better buildings that could make them more money.”
Q: You teach about building every new project in a sustainable manner; but what about those of us who have to live in our existing imperfect homes or offices? If we could only make three frugal, green changes today, what should we do?
A: “There are so many more existing buildings than the new ones we create. We cannot solve our energy and climate problems without addressing our existing buildings. Imagine, we could retrofit all of our existing buildings, saving millions in energy and water costs, and producing millions of new jobs in the process. All it would take is the desire and demand to get it done.”
Tomorrow: Freed goes on to share not three, but a long list of money-saving and energy-saving tips for your home!