If you haven’t already read my brief review on a new book profiling modern architecture and alternative energy, click here.
A new book profiling 10 modern homes and how they're built with alternative energy useage in mind
Lori Ryker, author of Off The Grid: Modern Homes + Alternative Energy, grew up in Texas and has lived several places around the world. She now lives in Livingston, Montana and teaches at Montana State University’s School of Architecture and is a partner of Ryker/Nave Design. I recently had the opportunity to ask Ryker some questions about her new book and her thoughts on the future of sustainable living.
Q: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about living off the grid?
A: That someone else should take the first step, that alternative energy is something of the future.
Q: You discuss how you think living off the grid brings people closer to where we live, making us more involved in how we live. Why do you think it’s important for more people to be connected to where and how they live?
A: Understanding where we live in the world and the reality of what it takes to live in that place (without the support of mechanical/big energy that creates a pseudo-environment) helps us take responsibility for the place in which we live, and the planet in general. Understanding the conditions of where we live help us make healthier and more responsible choices for environmental conditions such as clean water, air and landscapes; local food sources including plants and animals. Peter Berg coined a phrase in the 1970’s called bioregionalism, which addresses how we live in a place with particular identifiable physical and environmental features that then influence the use and consumption of local foods, materials and native plants, among other things. In the same way, living responsibly with alternative energy requires the knowledge and understanding of regions, bioregions and particular places so that we most efficiently employ the natural resource, such as sun or wind. Such a quality of life also makes us more grounded and invested in ourselves and the world.
Q: Have you found that a lot of people don’t think modern architecture and green features like off the grid living can be combined together?
A: No. I find that most people believe this relationship is normal. However, even three to five years ago this was not the case. There has been a strong and successful popular media push in the past few years to dispel the perception that living off the grid means living in the back-woods somewhere.
Q: You say the book is all about great living in great architecture. These homes certainly aren’t like the earth ships of the 60’s and 70’s are they?
A: No, but every once in a while I drive by an earth ship style place and think to myself, they are still quite sophisticated in their energy use and ability to connect people to the place in which they live, even if they do not appeal to everyone. I would argue that earth ships are also a “style” of architecture. An architect or designer could use the same materials and strategies of an earth ship today and arrive at a vastly different form of expression.
Q: You talk a lot about resource extraction and what you call “dirty energy”. What do you think it will take for people to understand how big of an environmental impact their home has?
A: A completely different way of evaluating home construction and energy use. Such as how bank loans are made, or how homes are taxed, how a builder accounts for the construction of the home and the materials used. In the meantime, we need alternative energy to become more affordable, better methods of measurement of an individual’s energy use and means to control particular components of energy use. Such as being able to separate out use of heating and cooling from media, not simply unplugging. We need more accountability. Simple things such as timers on lights and showers that are already in use in other parts of the world. These strategies remind us that the Earth is not limitless.
Keep checking back for the second half of my Q&A with Lori Ryker coming up later this week. That’s when I’ll also post the details behind how to enter the contest to win a copy of Lori’s book. You can get an early entry now by subscribing to my RSS Feed and then posting a comment on this article.
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