There’s Nothing New About Sustainability

In a way, the word “Sustainability” has become just another over-used buzzword, a casualty of our free market’s endless drive to find and appropriate progressive terms for short-term financial gain.

For example, when I am in a hotel, I often put up the placard that lets the maid know that my towel does not need to be washed. Am I really being sustainable? Or, am I just saving a stingy hotel conglomerate some pocket change it doesn’t want to pay its employees? The answer is that I really don’t know. Therein lies the danger.

Sustainability loses its profound urgency as it is diluted by a circus of corporate and political green-washing.1 These attempts at hoodwinking the general public into consuming products can often backfire with hilarious public relations fiascos, such as when General Motors briefly changed the color of their iconic logo from a blue background to a green one. More pernicious examples of corporate greed may include airliners imposing baggage weight limits to reduce fuel costs while selling the public on their “green” initiatives.

That’s not unlike a bully stealing your lunch and eating it while lecturing to you about world hunger. In the building industry, the bullies are often unscrupulous builders who employ a poorly executed, hodge-podge of green features intended only to sell the home. This, results in houses that either do not display any considerable energy savings or actually perform more poorly than traditional houses.

Back To Basics: There’s Nothing New About Sustainability

Being environmentally friendly these days is quite fashionable (especially if you’re looking to make a quick buck). But even before today’s much hyped green awakening, people have been living and building more or less at the apex of sustainability – net-zero. This means zero net energy consumed and zero carbon emissions.

For the building industry, that means cutting carbon emissions from forty percent of the total amount of carbon emitted by Americans, to zero. In order to achieve this seemingly impossible task, eco-builders today, such as Native, pursue a back-to-basics, no gimmick return to the rigorous traditions of home-building our species has practiced since the beginning of history.

That means no more absurd suburban boxes. That also means Native will not simply slap a few solar panels onto existing suburban boxes either.

What going back to basics means for these conscience builders is a meticulous analysis of the inherent environmental factors present on each site – including sun, wind, rain, and geothermal potential. This is coupled with a calculated and careful manipulation of building massing and orientation. Only then, are modern technologies such as photovoltaics and solar heating solutions applied. The result of this rigorously coordinated effort to build sustainably is a true net-zero house that is good to the earth and a veritable masterpiece of sustainable building.

1.Green-washing: or “green sheen”, is a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that a company’s policies or products are environmentally friendly.