Point/Counterpoint: C2C Home Design Contest and Construction

The first (and so far, only) Cradle-to-Cradle home, which we profiled yesterday, caused quite a green stir. Not only did it feature a plethora of green design features, it was architecturally adventurous and forward-looking. It was designed to be built outside Roanoke, Virginia, (in a suburb called Gainsboro) though, and in order for the home to better fit in with its new surroundings, when it came time to actually build the thing, the original design was passed up, in favor of a more suburban looking house. This split the green community down the middle: those who thought it was boring and “safe” to choose the suburban design, and those who thought it would serve the green community better to show that green can be mainstream as well. Here are both sides.

TreeHugger’s resident architect and green building expert, Lloyd Alter, had this to say: “In the recent Archetype competition, they just picked the boring [www.treehugger.com], because, well, it had great green credentials and they had to sell it to developers. At least they are building the winner.
“Far more obnoxious is the C2C competition [www.treehugger.com], where they gave the prize to a marvelous, modern and innovative project [www.treehugger.com] that ran on spinach, but when it came to building… as organizer [url= http://www.treehugger.com/files/2005/01/the_th_intervie.php]Gregg Lewis[/url] says in Inhabitat: ‘Many of the designs, including many of the winners, were far more progressive in their thinking relative to the environmental sustainability than they were in addressing the question of economic viability. We are continuing to pursue development of a number of the winning designs elsewhere in the region where price won’t be quite as much of a constraint and will look forward to seeing a variety of the solutions in their built form.’ translated: Let’s build the cheap one that won’t scare the neighbours.

“If innovative, challenging designs lose to contextual front-porch jobs because jurors cannot judge both architecture and systems, then we will not get the best architects even bothering to enter these competitions. This is a great loss- we need ideas that change the way we look at buildings, not how we look at plumbing.”

The other side of the fence is articulated by here [www.treehugger.com] thanks to our pals at Grist. Because of several political and socio-economic reasons, a different design was chosen; “unlike the winning entry, which introduces a new model for living, the Rife and Feather design is a traditional, pitched-roof Southern home that has been reproduced nationwide for hundreds of years.”

“The result is a house that conjures images of mom and apple pie, backyard barbecues and front porch swings. There is nothing about this house that says ‘gray water treatment happens here’, and that’s exactly the point, according to Gregg Lewis, the C2C Home organizer. ‘We want to show that a green home doesn’t need to cost more or look different from its neighbors.’ What C2C Home organizers hope to achieve in Gainsboro is to associate sustainability with affordability and tradition.

“Right now, the hurdles are overcoming the misconceptions and the notion that things can’t be done in a different way and still be affordable,” says Matthew Coates, part of the original winning design team. “We’re showing that it is possible for the average person to create a more sustainable lifestyle.”

Hmm. So, who wins this debate: super-sustainable, adventurous, spendy design, or super-sustainable, traditional, mainstream design? Feel free to spend your two cents in the comment section below.