“I wanted (my house) to be in harmony with nature. I’m from San Francisco. We’re just raised that way.”
“”I honored the block by rebuilding the same house,’ only bigger.”
“She wanted to build basically the same house that they were scraping . . . . and she wanted to use as many green materials as she could.”
The I and the she is Kelly Gettinger, the subject of a gushing piece in the Denver Post (26 September, 2009) called “Going green in high style.“
If the piece had been the usual fluff about some rich person with money to burn who wanted to build a BIG house — and who incidentally wanted to show a certain amount of eco-consciousness … well, that would have been the honest approach. As it was, the Denver Post presented Gettinger and her house primarily as a “green” project. Just what were some of the wonderful things the homeowner did to save the environment? Well, there’s the carbonized bamboo flooring (never mind that carbonizing requires the additional step of heating, which then reduces the durability of the finished product), low-flush toilets, solar panels, geothermal heat pump (because as Gettinger wants you to know, “geothermal is really the cutting edge”), low-VOC paints, and, of course, “tasteful Xeriscaping.”
Kelly Gettinger scraped her 1,900 sq ft house and built a 7,200 sq foot house in its stead. This is environmentally friendly … how? (And don’t get me started on how you can possibly “honor” the historic character of the neighborhood by getting rid of the original and putting something THREE times its size in the middle of the block … Unless all the neighbors scraped their presumably modest houses and built mansions too. In which case, there is no longer a “historic” neighborhood to be true to. Oh, but wait a minute — Gettinger never said she was a preservationist!)
On the other hand, what Gettinger does have now is a house fit for a Californian to live in.
What is the carbon footprint of scraping, and then building a 7,200 sq ft house? How does one live in harmony with nature in that most unnatural of house styles — a revival of a Tudor Revival? Does the homeowner think she can actually balance out the resource cost of the house over its lifetime, with all the politically-correct “eco upgrades”? And what is the actual cost of the message she — and the Denver Post — delivers: bigger, better, newer — conspicuous consumption is OK, but just be “green” about it?
Reduce: 1,900 sq ft to 7,200 sq ft … No, not a reduction.
Reuse: Aforementioned 1,900 sq ft house scraped. Definitely not a reuse either.
Recycle: Ahhh! Now we’re getting somewhere. Gettinger apparently “insisted on job-site recycling during construction.”
As an alternative to Gettinger’s and the Denver Post’s ideas on living green, here’s Opie:
Opie lives in a just-right-size house that takes advantage of passive heat and light from its southern exposure. Her house is cleaned by The Kid, who uses only biodegradable soap and cloth rags recycled from decrepit t-shirts, and who then repurposes the wash water for the grass. Opie eats bulk unpackaged timothy hay harvested from a local farm, and her litter is 100% post-consumer recycled paper, with additional scrap paper shredded using electricity generated by her humans’ photovoltaic solar panels. Finally, she is the ultimate green pig — she reduces, reuses, and recycles by eating her own poop … 🙂