Original Greensta: Steve Mouzon Gets Medieval on Sustainability

The Original Green is all about architecture and urbanism. But it’s also about reflection, living, inspiration, and delight. We can achieve sustainable living only when we “want to” or “love to” instead of feeling that we “have to” or “ought to” balance the needs of our society, economy and environment. 

Miami architect Steve Mouzon’s new book looks carefully at the building blocks of community, and what needs to shift to making living on earth a long-term proposition. Instead of repeating the cases others have made to quantify the drivers of sustainable living, Steve suggests honoring the Original Green of how we lived in the pre-petroleum era, while leveraging the technological and urban advances of the last 100 years.

First the book identifies the top 10 problems about how we’re approaching sustainability now, and the top 10 underlying principles to any effective plan for change. Steve more or less sums up his premise on the individual building with, “The best sort of carbon neutrality comes from building lovably and durably, using techniques that allow the building to largely condition itself, so frugality comes naturally.” Steve’s been thinking through this idea for some time now, in his design for a neighborhood-friendly green home, the Smart Dwelling, for the Wall Street Journal, and in his award-winning book, A Living Tradition, Architecture of the Bahamas, among others. However, unlike his earlier more specialized works, The Original Greenputs forth seminal and holistic philosophies to effect global change.

The general framework of theOriginal Green idea is that places must be nourishable, accessible, serviceable, and securable. And that buildings must be lovable, durable, flexible and frugal. Each of these eight elements breaks down further into the constraints on energy and materials that must occur to achieve sustainability. Finally, report cards indicate who’s carrying the load within each of the elements and constraints.

Featured throughout the book is Steve’s portfolio of photographs he’s taken throughout North and Central America and Europe. This inspiring view into the nuances of what is most sustainable about the way we currently live – and the depressing view of the flip side – is reason enough to read this compelling new work. Clearly there is reference to Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Languageand The Timeless Way of Building, bringing things current for the sorts of actions that must occur to safeguard such complete, convivial, compact and sustainable places.

The book is written in conversational language that targets everyone, although the concepts apply to industry and government as well as individuals. The number 1 of Steve’s 10 principles required for any effective plan is “the Involvement of Everyone.” And this book is written to that point.

The particulars: The forward is by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. The publisher is The Guild Foundation Press, released May 7, 2010. At 288 pages, the 6″ x 9″ softcover is meant to be a handbook, containing 245 images.

A recent short film speaks to many of the same ideas. American Makeover, episode 1, Sprawlanta looks at what will happen if we don’t change our course, and some applications of Original Green ideas. If you’re coming to New Partners for Smart Growth in Charlotte next week, you can meet up with Steve Mouzon and me. And get cracking on the Involvement of Everyone.

Read the full review on PlaceShakers.

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