Over at Xark, I read about this great webcomic site, xkcd - boy, I liked a bunch of the comics there. But this one about global warming was particularly compelling, especially since I spent an hour of my morning talking with an architect about the kind of home that I want to build. A 'green' home, or whatever that means. But as I slowly (and we're talking slowly) negotiate the building process - I'm learning quite a bit along the way about some stuff I just never paid any attention to before.
Like LEED. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - and their Green Building Rating System. For residential homes, this is a 'voluntary rating system that promotes the design and construction of high performance "green" homes'. On their site they list 16 relatively simple things that a person can do to lower their energy footprint - stuff like use compact fluorescent light bulbs, plug air leaks, program your thermostat, etc - and I like how they include alot of yard tips, like using native plants (that tend to thrive with less care if chosen carefully), planting trees to provide wind protection (especially up north) and shade (especially down here in the lowcountry!), and using non-toxic approaches in the garden. There's tougher stuff on the list too - like trying to use wood alternatives or FSC-certified wood products, and switching to green power (where green power refers to 'electricity supplied in whole or in part from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, geothermal, hydropower, and various forms of biomass. Increasingly, electricity customers are being given electricity supply options, either as retail power markets open to competition or when their regulated utilities develop green pricing programs'.)
So I've talked about Rannai Tankless Water Heaters, and Earthcraft homes, Hardie Plank siding (not sure about this one yet), hybrid solar systems (boy would it be cool to live part-time off the electrical grid), wood pilings vs concrete masonry units (cmu) and the new impact-resistant windows designed specifically for the V-zone. Yep, since I'm in the V-flood zone and the D2 seismic zone - they're gonna tell me what kind of windows I can (and cannot) use - and how deep my pilings need to be, etc. So one of the next steps will be a geotechnical report of the place - and a boundary/topographical survey.
So, Architect No. 1 was with a pretty big firm - and while he was a big V-zone designer, he was also a big home designer, and that really wasn't what I was after. I'm building a small home. Then there was Architect No. 2, who, I think - is the only LEED guy in our area (or one of only a very, very few), and he works on his own - and he actually asked if we could meet out at my piece of land (where I live now). So as we sat on the chairs in the middle of my circle of live oaks, he paused for a moment - in between talking about metal roofs and window orientation and recycled flooring - Architect No. 2 said 'wow, this is like sitting in a sanctuary' and in that one sentence I knew that he understood what I was after. My own little environmentally-responsible sanctuary.