Green Home Building and Sustainable Architecture

Sustainable architecture is an exciting and important field, with many people reviving traditional methods of building and others creating innovations to established practices. Kelly Hart, webmaster of the popular website, posts text and photos featuring what he discovers from around the world.

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Location: Crestone, Colorado, United States

Kelly Hart has been involved with green building concepts for much of his life. He has also worked in various fields of communication media, including still photography, cinematography, animation, video production and now website development. Kelly has lived in an earthbag/papercrete home that he built and consults about sustainable building design.

April 16, 2006

Small is Beautiful

Why build and live in a small house? First of all, it is more convenient to have what you need nearby. Life proceeds smoothly when the things you need are close at hand. Also, I might point out that limited space forces you to select only those things that you really need to live with, helping to keep clutter out of your life.

Another fairly obvious point is that a smaller house costs less to build and maintain. Housing represents the greatest expense that most of us face in this life. It is common to take on huge debt to pay for a house, which multiplies the cost even further, and places us in a kind of servitude to both the creditors and the house. Rob Roy, in his book “Mortgage Free!,” points out that the word mortgage comes from old French, and means “death pledge.” In it he describes many ways to build without debt. If you are able to own your house free and clear, all those years of your life that would have gone into paying off the debt can be utilized to positively affect your life and the world.

Obviously, the smaller the house, the fewer resources are consumed in creating it. Since the use of many building materials has a negative impact on our environment, keeping it small lessens the impact. Then there is the environmental cost of heating and cooling a house to consider. The smaller the house, the less this cost will be. Burning fossil fuels, either directly (such as propane heating) or indirectly (such as heating or cooling electrically), consumes these finite resources and contributes to carbon dioxide pollution. It is much easier and more effective to design a solar heated house that is small.

Another impact to consider is aesthetic. Does the house fit in with the landscape? A large, imposing edifice may seem out of scale with the surrounding land, whereas a small abode is more likely to fit in nicely.

To illustrate some of these concepts, Suzanne Frazier has graciously allowed me to use her home as a model “small house.” Built in 1994 by “Cut No Slack” construction of Salida, Colorado, Suzanne's house is more or less conventional in materials used (wood framed, etc.). She wanted it to conform to the Uniform Building Code so that she would be sure of its integrity as a house over time.

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Anonymous Deidre said...

I believe in small houses because people are having less children and the idea of two adults and one child living in 5000 sqft seems, quite frankly, vulgar.

But I've been watching a lot of small space tv shows and no offense to the house you chose, which has a great design, being a NYers 924 square feet seems quite large for one person.

I think the word "green" has gotten kidnapped by the trendy. The house you described has great features that I'd love to steal when I give up apartment life (which tends to be 300-500 sqft per person including common area and 90-150sqft if you only consider your real private space a bedroom).

I think the garage pass-thru is fanstatic and I put in a similar thing between the landry room and master bedroom for my disabled mother-- bt the rest of the monk like design doesn't lend itself to too many people bysides a person like herself. That means for all her heard work, a buyer would either have to add-on or tear-down since remodling would be too expensive. I don't want to sleep in an open loft while my children have the office and I don't want my children to not have Privacy.

I think this is great as 2/3 a house or a workshop/guesthouse-- but lwt not call 900sqft per person a small house. the house is small; a one bed 900 sqft unit is not small.

1:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think that 'small is beautiful'. as americans, i think that we've become wasteful and want what we've grown to want that 'bigger is better' when it's truly not. we have the outside to appease us. i love my small house... no matter if i had children in the home or not. i couldn't ever see myself in some unforgivable, enormous space with nothing to do with. i think smaller spaces are more economical and provide much more comfort. ty for sharing!!!!!

11:29 PM  

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