- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 23, 2006

When Michelle Kaufmann designed her home in 2002, she never thought it would end up being replicated in the National Building Museum in Northwest.

She and her husband, Kevin Cullen, decided to follow the principles of sustainable design or “green building,” which provides for the least negative impact on the environment and the healthiest living space possible. She is an architect and owns Michelle Kaufmann Designs in San Francisco.

Friends liked her home, called the Glidehouse, so much that they asked for homes like it. Eventually, Ms. Kaufmann arranged to have the house mass-produced.

Through June 3, part of her home is replicated in “The Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture and Design” at the National Building Museum.

“I hope what people will take away is that there are easy ways that one can make their own environment more Earth friendly,” Ms. Kaufmann says. “The home doesn’t have to be some crunchy granola hippy straw-bale house in California. It also doesn’t have to be something that is financially out of one’s reach. Green can be affordable and well-designed.”

Going green doesn’t have to mean going weird, agrees Donald Albrecht, lead curator of the exhibit. The average homeowner doesn’t need to live in a house made of tires because he or she wants to do something sustainable for the environment, he says.

“In the ‘70s, they wanted to let you know when you drove by their house they are green and going back to the earth,” Mr. Albrecht says. “The need for propaganda isn’t necessary anymore.”

On average, the cost of the Glidehouse is $132 per square foot for a house on a level lot, according to the National Building Museum exhibit.

A one-bedroom house is 672 square feet. A four-bedroom house is up to 2,255 square feet. For most Glidehouse variations, that converts to about $200,000 per house, $83,000 less than the average cost of an American home in 2005, according to the exhibit.

“Sustainability can be affordable,” Ms. Kaufmann says. “It’s a matter of making certain choices.”

Unlike many homes built in the United States, the Glidehouse is built off-site, which allows for less waste, she says. So far, 18 clients have ordered Glidehouses for mass production in the standard and modified form.

The home can feature many aspects of green living, such as dual-flush toilets that reduce water usage. It can have low-flow shower heads and counters made from recycled paper. She suggests using Energy Star appliances, which meet the energy-consumption guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy in Southwest.

In the exhibit, bamboo flooring serves as an alternative to timber material and helps forest preservation. Bamboo grows quickly, and the manufacturing process is nontoxic and waste-free, Ms. Kaufmann says. The Forest Stewardship Council in Northwest has certified the wood cabinetry.

Icynene insulation, which has increased energy efficiency, is used in the Glidehouse. Toxin-free upholstery and paint are used throughout the home. Glass walls, except for the side walls, allow for sunlight during the day, which decreases the need for artificial light. Sliding wood shades can block the light when necessary.

Solar electricity panels, or photovoltaics, are meant to be mounted on the roof, positioned to minimize solar loss in the winter and maximize solar gain in the summer. In the Northern Hemisphere, the long sides of the house would face south and north.

The full-scale house in the exhibit shows visitors how a green house can be comfortable and attractive while making a contribution to environmental sustainability, says Martin Moeller, senior vice president for special projects at the National Building Museum.

It also features broad strategies for building and renovating homes as well as tips for going green, he says. For instance, turning down the thermostat just one degree can lower energy costs by about 4 percent. Repairing leaky fixtures is essential. As much as 10 gallons of water can be wasted each week by a faucet that drips once a second.

Also, 58 green materials are presented, including natural clay plaster, recycled fabric wallcovering, cork wallcovering, recycled aluminum tiles, plexwood, and recycled glass tile.

“It is design that is conceived to meet all of our current needs without sacrificing the potential for future generations,” Mr. Moeller says. “So we can go about doing the things we need to do without destroying the planet for the people who come after us.”

The exhibit celebrates how technology and materials have caught up with the aesthetics of green building, says Alanna Stang, consulting curator and co-author of the exhibition book, “The Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture.”

She wrote the book with Christopher Hawthorne, a consulting curator for the exhibit. It features 29 residential projects from around the world that combine good design with green design, she says. Twenty-one of the 29 homes are displayed in the exhibit through photographs and models.

“For ‘green’ design to move into the mainstream, it has to be taken up by the avant-garde architects,” Ms. Stang says. “Those are the leaders in the field. If it remains a marginal thing, it will never be mainstreamed.”

Casa de Carmen in Todos Santos, Mexico, is one of the homes highlighted in Ms. Stang’s book. Marsha Maytum, principal at Leddy, Maytum, Stacy Architects in San Francisco is the architect who designed it.

She designed the home for a couple interested in an energy-efficient house, she says. The clients spend half the year in Alaska and half the year in Mexico.

“I hope that people take away that green design makes total sense,” Ms. Maytum says. “It’s beautiful and achievable for everyone. Everyone needs to integrate this approach to living their lives. It’s paramount at this point. We have to be better stewards of the Earth. A good way to start is in your own home.”

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