Today we’re highlighting one of the country’s leading green architects and a welcome member of the GoodGuide community, Eric Corey Freed. Named “Best Green Architect” By San Francisco Magazine, Eric founded his own firm organicArchitect in 1997. Today, he’s also the author of four books on sustainable design including the bestseller Green Building & Remodeling for Dummies and his latest work Green$ense for the Home: Rating the Real Payoff from 50 Green Home Projects.
We had a quick chat with Eric to gauge his thoughts on the state of green architecture and building.
GG: What fascinates you most about green architecture?
EF: I’m probably more fascinated about why every building is not already a green building. We still knowingly put cancer causing chemicals on our walls (paint), choose countertops harvested from child labor (granite) and use formaldehyde as a glue (insulation). Traditional building is irresponsible. Green building is not a fancy luxury. It’s a necessity.
GG: What inspired you to write “GreenSense For The Home?”
EF: Most people understand why we need to be green. What’s missing is the knowledge of how to go green and what it really costs. Green$ense was designed to fill the gap. It covers fifty projects that you can do in your home, in a step-by-step approach for everything from installing a programmable thermostat to adding solar panels on your roof. Each project includes info on the cost and the length of time to realize a return on your investment. Most projects highlighted pay for themselves in three years or less.
GG: Are there new green technologies that make it easy for people to enjoyably and affordably green their homes or does it require a lot of work?
EF: Most of today’s effective green technologies are actually decades old: caulking, insulating, EnergyStar appliances, etc. However, I do see several exciting new technologies that will soon change how everyone interacts with energy and building operations. Smart utility meters will allow us to control the flow of energy into our homes and appliances in ways we never before imagined. Building display systems will provide instant feedback on our electricity, gas and water consumption and also provide suggestions to cut our use (similar to the dashboard display of a Toyota Prius.) Lastly, passive technologies will enable us to create fresh water from air (humidity), electricity from motion (static) and hot water from gas (fuel cell). It is an exciting time and it will only get easier to afford and enjoy your green home.
GG: How is GoodGuide shaping or reshaping your purchasing habits?
EF: I really only have time to understand building materials. After watching the documentary Food Inc., I realized how little I know about the food my family eats. We’ve been trying to change that. I appreciate that GoodGuide gives me trusted, smart and well explained information about the products I’m choosing on a daily basis.
GG: If you had one wish for the green movement in 2011 what would it be?
EF: I’d wish for a level playing field. The realities of the modern political system are far removed from what is best for people. For years, I avoided getting involved politically until I kept confronting political resistance in my work on greening buildings. Smart ideas like solar and wind power will always appear more expensive in a country where coal and gas are subsidized by the Federal Government to the tune of $5.5 billion a year. There are four climate lobbyists for every member of Congress, telling them not to regulate carbon emissions. We can’t compete. For humanity to stand a chance of survival, sustainability needs a level political playing field.