Ostentatious

The November issue of Dwell (and, it turns out, a NYT blog entry by Dwell editor Allison Arieff) gives a big ol’ wet kiss in a story by Frances Anderton about Steve Glenn and his LivingHome, a company selling prefab wooden boxes, er, houses designed by a SCI-Arc avant-gardiste that come designed to LEED Platinum standards — “Zero Energy, Zero Water, Zero Waste, Zero Carbon, Zero Emissions” is the mantra. And yet:

bq. Glenn has carefully targeted his customers: They are not back-to-the-earthers, but relatively affluent people who want to consume guiltlessly — people who, in his words, “drive Priuses, buy Bosch appliances and Design Within Reach furniture, shop at Whole Foods, and give money to the Natural Resources Defense Council.”

Ugh. Someone has not been thinking outside the wooden box lately, and it shows; if going green just becomes another luxury lifestyle choice for consumers to define themselves by, then the entire project will deservedly fail. Put simply: “We can’t shop our way to sustainability.”:http://www.worldchanging.com/archives//004343.html

FSC certified hardwoods everywhere may be certified, but still consume vastly more resources than wood alternatives. The Prius has highly toxic heavy metals in its batteries and achieves a tiny fraction of the fuel economy that the driver within could achieve if he just walked away from the car. Bosch, DWR, and Whole Foods are all overpriced, marginally greenwashed (if at all), and shipped from thousands of miles away. And the house, as with all of the dozen-odd modern prefab options presented in the magazine’s 300 glossy pages, has no visual relationship with the street; heck, none of them even have a visual relationship with the _ground_.

Unfortunately for America, the rise of green building in the Aughts has coincided with both a growing national obsession with overinflated housing prices and with a government controlled by ideologues who want to kill all remaining federal housing aid to the poor; hence, almost all of the flagship attempts at green building have been not only “market rate” but obnoxiously expensive. Contrast that experience with the UK, where the Labour government has focused national attention on green building at the same time that it has advocated a muscular growth-management and housing policy.

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