Having just spent the last two months reading about eco-housing I have compiled a list of what I consider to be the best books about housing, home and eco-housing. These books encompass a broad interest in the physical architectural design of an eco-house, alongside the important social elements of how people live together and communities function.
More useful books April 19, 2010
This British book is packed full of case studies but also useful reflective chapters on issues such as design for longevity. It’s recent publication makes it particularly useful in this quickly evolving field. Contains a good chapter on the implications of Pattern Language.
This is an American book and slightly dated but the only book I have found so far which explicitly links sustainability with affordability. It is a mixture of ‘how to’, numerous examples, and reflection about the need and impediments to affordable eco-housing. I particularly like the chapter (2) on Antecedents for Affordability which links the ideas of Henry David Thoreau with the American dream of housing for everybody. It also outlines a proposal (Chapter 8) for a new theory of affordable housing using modular design.
Pattern Language is a way in which to approach architectural design and town planning to maximise the enjoyment and use of the space for people. It is about ensuring that design is for people rather than just to look good. The ‘language’ creates a detailed understanding of how each house (and town) should be to maximise comfort, utility and enjoyment. Despite being three decades old it contains a huge number of rules for design which we appear to be ignoring to our detriment. For example, on the matter of home ownership it suggests that “people cannot be genuinely comfortable and healthy in a house which is not theirs” (p.393). However, this does not mean everyone should own a home, instead “keep the emphasis in the definition of ownership on control, not on financial ownership. Indeed, where it is possible to construct forms of ownership which give people control over their houses and gardens, but make financial speculation impossible, choose these forms above all others” (p.394). Other rules include 159. Light on two sides of every room, and 197. Thick walls. It also advocates modest dwellings, where a house for one person would be single room with a number of alcoves and “the entire house may be no more than 300 to 400 square feet” (p.391).
Useful books March 25, 2010
There are a large number of books about eco-building, eco-living and eco-communities, but far fewer which deal with issues of affordability as well as sustainability. A few I have come across recently are:
A great book which argues that careful integrated ecological design is necessary to build sustainable homes and critiques the rising use of technological fixes to ‘make a house eco’. This approach – careful design – can often also be cheaper. The book does much to dismiss many examples of inappropriate use of technology.
This edited collection includes numerous examples from across the world of innovative, often low cost, green building. The book takes it remit as ‘housing the homeless without destroying natural habitats’ by exploring local traditions, how environmental building ideas have travelled, and the need for resident participation in design. Its particular focus on vernacular (everyday) buildings and its concern for inclusion and the homeless means it has a great deal to say about low cost eco-housing.
This book is packed full of examples I have not found elsewhere, with specific chapters on affordable housing and ‘greening grey’ it takes a more diverse approach as to who can live in green housing than I have seen in other books. Crucially, like all these books, it does not just mention examples, but critically reflects upon what has worked and what has not. Mostly examples from USA and Canada.
A excellent book about straw bale building in Britian. Written by the founder of amazonnails (the leading company for strawbale design in the UK) it is packed full of examples and although is very practical in its content, it includes a useful chapter about affordability.