Houses That Can Save the World

Thames & Hudson. Dec. 2022. 256p. ISBN 9780500343715. $34.95. ARCH
While a generation of socially conscious architects rejected fossil fuels in favor of renewable sources of energy, the more recent biophilic adoption of the word “green” suggests a more comprehensive approach to a building ecology that also includes sustainable materials. In 1993, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) introduced a more systematic approach to environmentally sensitive design and construction choices. Since LEED practices for residential construction are less rigorous, this manifesto by two idealistic nonarchitects (Smith is a freelance curator; Topham is a design writer) is also a welcome sourcebook of ideas for creating environmentally responsible houses. What differentiates this from the plentiful selection of titles on sustainable home design is its thematic organization, visible in the table of contents, which introduces 19 themes, or strategies, and even provides a one-sentence summary of each. Unexpected anthropomorphic chapter headings (“breath,” “burrow,” “empathize”) work alongside agricultural metaphors (“grow,” “harvest,” “preserve”). Each chapter contains a one-page introduction and between five and 10 examples, described with a small font that sacrifices legibility.
VERDICT Some selections come from conceptual artists and fall well outside of realistic design applications, and this effort would have greater impact if limited to pragmatic solutions. Still, the original concept makes this a sound choice for most design collections.
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