Contrasts “Original Green” vs. “Gadget Green”
Even before green building gathered momentum, Miami architect Steve Mouzon was determined to change the focus of the discussion. Green shouldn’t be just about the individual house in the here and now, he argued; it has to be about the broader community over time. Design and construction should build on lessons from the past and lay the groundwork for a sustainable future.
That perspective led him to an award-winning book, A Living Tradition: Architecture of the Bahamas, and to the continuing refinement of the idea of “Original Green.” “Original Green,” as opposed to “Gadget Green,” focuses on vernacular practices honed over time to shape highly efficient and much loved structures that adapt and endure over generations.
This past January in Miami, a design group founded by Mouzon, the New Urban Guild, convened in Miami to talk about producing a series of ideas for dwellings for a new era in America. The discussion was about efficiencies of space and about Original Green-style sustainability. Now, one of the first products of that 2008 discussion, a Mouzon design for a neighborhood-friendly green home, was among four ideas featured in a special section of the April 27, 2009, Wall Street Journal.
Mouzon’s concept shares at least one approach with the work of the other four architects. Its scale is relatively small, especially compared with McMansion-style mega-houses. Everybody, it seems, is coming to understand that reducing volume is one sure route to greater energy efficiency. Mouzon’s design fits easily on a standard 50 X 100 urban lot. Its 1,200-square-feet of air-conditioned space utilizes less than half the site. The highly detailed outside rooms encourage living a great part of the time in the outdoors, even in the sub-tropical climate of the South Atlantic coast, where Mouzon chose to locate his theoretical lot. (Original Green, Mouzon will point out, is not a one-size-fits-all approach; designs have to be customized to regional climate to take advantage of time-honored vernacular for conserving energy and achieving creature comfort.)
While Mouzon doesn’t shy away from the latest advancements in solar and wind technologies, he avoids expensive, high-maintenance gadgetry in order to focus on much older – even ancient techniques – to achieve sustainability: Shading eaves, sleeping porches, cross ventilation, and “sails” to direct cooling breezes in the gardens. In this design, homeowners can live 100 percent off the energy grid. Enough food can be grown in the gardens or harvested from the chicken coop or tilapia pool to sustain a small family. Yet nothing about the house prevents it from nesting comfortably in a neighborhood.
You can read more about the design for the WSJ story on Mouzon’s website here.