Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Christmas has come and gone and its time to continue discussing people that have a profound influence on my thoughts.

Ross Chapin is an architect that has developed some fantastic designs of homes and cottages that he is more than wiling to share. I must admit that I envy his ability to design spaces with a true eye to detail. His homes provide a warmth and earthiness that is immediately appealing. Ross has gone one step further and written a fantastic book "Pocket Neighborhoods - Creating Small Scale Community in a Large Scale World". This book illustrates where I would like to go with my blog in the future. We all to often focus on "a building" or "the building", but avoid the context in which it will exist. His work offers a vision of how people can live in a community that fosters social interaction. This book is a must for anyone pursuing studies in architecture or anyone developing a more sustainable way of living.

Marianne Cusato is an architect that is best known for her Katrina Cottage, a housing type resulting from the devastation on New Orleans by hurricane Katrina. The Katrina Cottage concept came out of the New Urban Guild and propelled Marianne into national recognition. Once again, I am inspired by the simplicity and traditional character of her designs. Katrina cottages have been built to replace homes lost in the hurricane as well as incorporated into pocket neighborhoods. Katrina Cottages have even been sold as kits by Lowe's Hardware similar to the kits for Sears Homes.

What's most important about the work of Ross Chapin and Marianne Cusato (as well as others) is their willingness to openly share their work. If we are to transition into more sustainable communities, it will be imperative that we all openly share our knowledge. This is not the time to hoard information and ideas for personal pride or monetary gain. Food, clothing and shelter are too basic to become the domain of a few. As design professionals, we have an obligation to discuss and provide our musings with society at large.

I invite all to share in this ongoing adventure of discovery.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I am beginning my series of posts introducing readers to the musings of Stephen A. Mouzon, an architect located in Miami, Florida. Steve provides us with a vision of human development based upon principles that have been with us historically, but we have moved away from since the development of our car based culture. Steve has a very compelling way of putting into words and pictures what we are often looking for in designing living communities. I find his website The Original Green often inspiring and thoughtful. I would recommend anyone interested in how energy efficient housing can be incorporated into a community context to join me in frequenting his website and reading the posts in his blog.

I would also recommend purchasing his book The Original Green and sharing it with others. As a designer or builder, I would recommend providing a copy of the book to your clients. The book is filled with wonderful photography as well as a very readable text. If you are a member of a book club, it would make for wonderful discussions. In a nutshell, Steve feels that sustainable communities must include eight basic principles:

Sustainable places should be:

Nourishable because if you cannot eat there, you cannot live there.

because we need many ways to get around, especially walking and biking because those methods do not require fuel.

because we need to be able to get the basic services of life within walking distance. We also should be able to make a living where we are living if we choose to.

against rough spots in the uncertain future because if there is too much fear, the people will leave.

Sustainable buildings should be:

Lovable because if they cannot be loved, they will not last.

Durable because if they cannot endure, they are not sustainable.

Flexible because if they endure, they will need to be used for many uses over the centuries.

Frugal because energy and resource hogs cannot be sustained in a healthy way long into an uncertain future.


I just noted that I have not added any comments to this blog since April 2010. This has not been due to lack of interest or ideas. I have simply been meeting new folks and investigating new directions. Super insulation concepts are still the way to go when building a home in my climate - the Canadian Maritimes - or any other cold weather climate. The long term energy savings are real. Building codes are being upgraded (too slowly) to reflect the need for more insulation, more air-tightness, and controlled ventilation. Besides the detailing and dialog provided in past postings focusing on double stud wall construction, I have been looking at other techniques and materials (ICF, vertical truss joists, straw bale, etc.). I have found the Green Building Advisor as a valuable resource for information and discussions - in particular the Musings of an Energy Nerd blog.

While there is much to be learned in the ongoing development of super insulated design and construction, my energy is also focused on the context of the home within the larger environment. While I am always open to any questions or comments you can share, my upcoming posts will try to lead the readers to issues and sites that discuss energy efficient housing in a broader context that responds to cultural transitions we are currently experiencing.