If you've heard more than enough about eco-conscious, environmentally friendly and green stuff, test your knowledge and see if you're retaining the information or are still green behind the ears.
Greenwashing is the under-the-table practice of marketing products and services as environmentally friendly or organic when they're not. Often it's like whitewashing because it gives the appearance of being green, but is anything but green underneath.
In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publishes guidelines and calculations for products and recycled materials. Depending on local codes and desired certification, LEED or otherwise, the number will depend on the size and cost of the project and even the weight of materials. It comes down to the math.
While some architecture degree programs specialize in preparing students to become green professionals, it is a specialization within a general course of education to become an architect. Professional certifications and graduate level coursework can make an architect a specialist in green architecture, but requirements aren't black and white.
With an increasing focus on being aware of what we buy, build with and throw away, some get tired of all of the focus on being green, leading to "green fatigue" and sometimes the urge to just rebel and be environmentally-unfriendly instead of friendly.
Eames and Wright championed some pre-green architecture and design concepts in the early and mid-20th century, but in 2010 Robert Stern spoke of making sustainable architecture just par for the course.
A 2011 EPA study found that multi-family dwellings, with their shared walls and likelihood of being closer to transportation, can use much less energy than detached single-family residences.
Glass houses have many qualities that make them environmentally friendly, including the ability to take in lots of natural light and heat. But they also can allow for wasted energy when glass areas aren't joined or glazed properly. Reconsider a house with lots of glass unless it's a solid design backed by builders with the actual numbers and sustainability measures of products being used.
Taking great pains to build or rehab a home to make it environmentally friendly will be cancelled out a little or a lot if it's filled with toxins. Treated fabrics, floor and wall treatments, and even retro pieces can emit toxins in the most pristine and well-ventilated environments.
Award-winning architect Frank Gehry spoke of the race to reach LEED certification with a critical tone, and many have picked up on his comments as being un-green. Gehry has restated his support of green building, just with some reservations about LEED. Look into the certification and media comments for more on the hoopla.
Many outdoorsy types also value rustic designs and wooden architecture for its naturalness, but timber frame houses actually have a lot of negative impact when they're full of lofty spaces requiring added heating and cooling, or if they're not joined properly and let too much air in and out. And locating a timber family home off the beaten path adds to environmental concerns if you have to drive twice as far and often to shop, go to school and get to work. A green timber frame specialist can get the look, siting, materials and construction in line with sustainability.
LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a certification award for buildings and communities that achieve high standards in environmental friendliness and sustainability.
Architect Renzo Piano designed the California Academy of Sciences with numerous sustainable features and without air conditioning, relying instead on windows that actually open -- a rarity in modern building design -- and a motorized ventilation system that circulates breezes through the main building.
Large sea and train-faring shipping containers are available for purchase on the Internet and can be customized and assembled in groups for residential, office or other uses. Entire cities and housing developments in the United Kingdom, The Netherlands and elsewhere use these containers as urban, rural and student housing.
Depending on the amount of travelling you plan to do and the eco-friendly features or lack of them on the RV itself, staying in a home or hitting the road can be green or not at all green. Those who consider RV living are already thinking about the possibilities of downsizing, so in that sense it's green, but guzzling fuel and picking up lots of Styrofoam takeout along the way? Well, you get the picture.
Aside from being featured in a rockin' Cheap Trick song from the 1970s, the green police are members of a fictional, real and abstract force all at the same time. Some use the term for government oversight of environmental responsibility and others use it to describe really committed and vigilant environmentalists. If you get a dirty look for using plastic bags at the grocery checkout, it could be the green police, or it could just be your own guilt and paranoia, self destroyer (but that would be the Kinks).
Entrants in the Zerofootprint Prize have to work with an existing concrete high-rise and cover and retrofit it inside and out, giving it a zero footprint -- making it an environmental hero from a design zero so to speak -- while achieving architectural integrity. Winning buildings will need to look good and perform well in their new green skins.
An International Green Construction Code (IGCC) is scheduled for release by the International Code Council (ICC) in 2012. If you're reading this in 2013 and it's not yet available, you might want to check with the ICC.
Some types of green building can be very expensive, but building a straw bale house or a tiny cottage can cost less than building a traditional home.
Ross and Wilson were truly "green" designers because they each designed hundreds of the world's best golf courses, but Buckminster ("Bucky") Fuller (1895-1983) talked about sustainability long before the greening of mainstream architecture. Fuller's designs and "do more with less" principles for social issues are still studied today.
While all cultures contribute to understanding and improving building design, groups such as the Pueblo Indians of the Southwestern United States lived together and stayed cool in family units or communities of distinctive adobe structures that are still valued and copied today for their sustainability.