Ar­chi­tect looks to the past for green ideas

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - By Paula McCooey

MI­AMI ar­chi­tect Stephen Mouzon pro­motes a con­cept of New Ur­ban­ism that mar­ries so­phis­ti­cated green-build­ing tech­niques with the life­styles of our an­ces­tors.

That life­style is what he calls the orig­i­nal green, or be­fore the ther­mo­stat age when com­fort was not con­trolled by the flick of a switch.

Be­fore the ther­mo­stat age, we had no choice but to be green, oth­er­wise peo­ple would freeze to death in the win­ter or they would die of heat­stroke in the sum­mer in some parts of the world, says Mouzon, who notes the fact that hu­mans have ex­isted for cen­turies proves there are things this so­ci­ety can learn from the past.

It wasn’t just mar­ket­ing fluff. It was called sur­vival.

The pro­po­nent of eco-friendly liv­ing and build­ing is on a book tour this sum­mer to pro­mote The Orig­i­nal Green — Un­lock­ing the Mys­tery of True Sus­tain­abil­ity — a beau­ti­ful 280page book full of vi­brant pho­tos and ideas on sus­tain­able liv­ing.

“I char­ac­ter­ize the typ­i­cal green dis­cus­sion in what I call gizmo green and that is ba­si­cally the propo­si­tion that with bet­ter ma­te­ri­als or bet­ter giz­mos that we can achieve sus­tain­abil­ity,” says the 50-year-old Mouzon in a phone in­ter­view from Mi­ami.

“What I say is that, yes, that is a part of it, but it’s ac­tu­ally a fairly small part. Most of the things that we are do­ing to be green by them­selves can’t work.”

For ex­am­ple, he says, what’s the point of re­duc­ing a build­ing’s car­bon foot­print if you have to drive there to use it.

Even if the car­bon foot­print of the build­ing is very low, then the car­bon foot­print of in­hab­it­ing that build­ing could ac­tu­ally be quite high. We are deceiving our­selves, says the LEEDcer­ti­fied ar­chi­tect and mem­ber of the U.S. Green Build­ing Coun­cil. Build­ings con­structed to tough stan­dards set by LEED or Lead­er­ship in En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal De­sign build­ings make sub­stan­tial en­ergy sav­ings and rely on pub­lic trans­porta­tion, in­stead of pri­vate cars.

In the book, Mouzon high­lights the prob­lems with cur­rent green ef­forts that aren’t work­ing or can’t work by them­selves; the foun­da­tion of sus­tain­able build­ings and places; and what cities and their res­i­dents can do on a small scale to sup­port sus­tain­abil­ity.

Mouzon’s tar­get au­di­ence is broad be­cause real sus­tain­abil­ity hap­pens when ev­ery­body in a cul­ture is in­volved, and not just the ar­chi­tects, builders and plan­ners.

In part four of the book What Can I Do, he puts the onus of sus­tain­abil­ity on the gen­eral pub­lic. His sug­ges­tions in­clude: Make a liv­ing where you are liv­ing; op­er­ate nat­u­rally; and give a gift to the street.

Giv­ing a gift to the street is the best ex­pres­sion of neigh­bourli­ness. Es­sen­tially, it’s do­ing some­thing nice for some­one that you may never meet, he says. As a busi­ness, it could mean build­ing some­thing that shel­ters passers-by, such as in­stalling an awning over a side­walk — or build­ing some­thing re­fresh­ing, pos­si­bly a foun­tain.

Or in a res­i­den­tial set­ting, Mouzon says a sim­ple of­fer­ing could be some­thing that de­lights a stranger, plant­ing a front gar­den, which in turn would make the neigh­bour­hood a more pleas­ant place to walk.

The idea is if ev­ery build­ing, whether it be home or busi­ness, gives some sort of gift to the street, then think of how much bet­ter a place it would be to walk, says Mouzon, who lost 60 pounds af­ter mov­ing to Mi­ami Beach and walk­ing to work ev­ery day. The walk­a­bil­ity of a place is a high in­di­ca­tor of the sus­tain­abil­ity of a place, he says. In other words, the more walk­a­ble a place is, the more sus­tain­able it is. And also the health­ier the peo­ple are.

— Postmedia News

Stephen Mouzon, author of The Orig­i­nal Green — Un­lock­ing the Mys­tery of True

Sus­tain­abil­ity

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