Frugal buildings can be considered frugal in eight aspects: The first three are their frugality with the energy to construct and operate buildings, and the energy of transportation associated with the occupation of the buildings. Next are frugality of materials to construct, the recycling of the materials of construction and operation, and our stewardship of the water and the air that surrounds the buildings. Finally, frugality extends both to how we conserve the nature around us, and also how we conserve our own wellness. Specifics of these eight aspects of Frugality are as follows:
• Proponents of Gizmo Green profess their concern with energy required to construct buildings. But Gizmo Green was born from a fascination with all things technical. Its practitioners therefore prefer highly-processed high-tech materials over traditional materials. The problem is that traditional materials generally contain much less embodied energy per pound than the high-tech ones. So while Gizmo Green makes some contributions to reducing energy required to construct buildings by calling for materials extracted and regionally, living traditions do the same, and they also prefer materials that have been processed less, embodying less energy.
• Energy required to operate buildings is the measuring-stick of Gizmo Green. Here, proponents of Gizmo Green have made large contributions. Unfortunately, those contributions focus heavily on the mechanical operation of the buildings, and because machines have a lifespan much less than a durable building, they will eventually break down and need to be replaced. Our recent track record has been one of continually better machines, so it could be argued that eventual breakdown is actually a good thing since it requires the machine to be replaced with a more efficient machine. But buildings created from living traditions that condition space first by passive means are more certain to work for the life of the building because passive means are not dependent upon any particular technology.
• Transportation energy is nowhere on the Gizmo Green radar screen. The New Urbanism, however, has been developing methods of producing places where people can walk to work, to shop, to school, and to play for decades. Transportation energy is an essential component of any serious conversation on true sustainability.
• Gizmo Green is rightly concerned with building from rapidly renewable materials or recycled materials. Living traditions did this for millennia out of necessity, because a tradition that lived long enough to be passed down for generations obviously could not be built with materials that ran out in short order. The difference is that living traditions more easily use low-tech materials because they have no predisposition to the aesthetics of high technology.
• Methods of recycling today have been almost completely defined by the proponents of Gizmo Green, and there is no known downside to this. Credit should be given where it is due.
• The Gizmo Green is also highly concerned with our stewardship of the water and air around us, and rightfully so. There are two downsides. Within buildings, when mechanical systems which are the heart of Gizmo Green fail or are somehow compromised, then the entire building is likely to perform very poorly if at all until the parts arrive and the technician is able to install them. We have all likely experienced a mechanically-conditioned building rendered uninhabitable when its systems fail. The second downside is that the Gizmo Green’s near-religious regard for water in its current form does not allow urbanism. The greatest cities on earth are almost all built along a manmade hard edge of a river, a lake, or an ocean. This allows close contact of humans to the water, therefore making the city a more enticing place for people to live compactly, leaving more of nature untouched.
• And that is a perfect segue into the next aspect of frugality, which is our stewardship of that which remains natural around us. The Gizmo Green is again rightfully concerned with this issue, and addresses it in a number of ways, such as the avoidance of light pollution, recycling rather than consuming new construction materials, encouraging brownfield redevelopment, encouraging renewable energy, etc. The New Urbanism protects the environment by enticing people to live more compactly in order to leave more of nature untouched, and to pollute less by driving less. Living traditions have always been based on making do with the materials and craft sets that are available regionally, and doing things in the least invasive way.
• The final aspect of Frugality is that of conserving our own wellness: at least wellness of body, likely wellness of mind, and possibly even wellness of spirit. Gizmo Green addresses primarily chemical aspects of wellness, such as the use of low-VOC building materials and proper ventilation to remove indoor pollutants. The New Urbanism addresses physical wellness by encouraging walking, and also wellness of mind by allowing for the creation of community again. Living traditions fulfill a broad range of wellness roles too comprehensive to list here that can best be encapsulated within the notion of engaging each person in a living process of achieving a sustainable way of life.
Frugality, as the last foundation of sustainable buildings is considered the entirety of sustainability by many in the popular green movement. This is unfortunate. Not only is Frugality only one of eight foundations of sustainable places and sustainable buildings, but it is only partially addressed by Gizmo Green today, as illustrated above.
Frugal Buildings Resources
Frugal Buildings Bookshelf contains a growing collection of books that contribute to various aspects of Frugal Buildings.
Frugal Buildings Links
Frugal Buildings Blog Posts
SmartDwelling I - Breeze Chimneys looks at one of SmartDwelling I's inventions: a fanciful rooftop device that acts like an electricity-free whole house fan.
the Chael-Dover Cottage - What the Original Green Looks Like paints a picture of a highly sustainable house using the Original Green standard.
The Green Academy - Or Not is a report card on today's architectural education measured by Original Green foundations.
The Gizmo Green Conundrum pits an icon of Gizmo Green (a Chicago parking deck promoting itself as being green) against the eight foundations of the Original Green.
The Luxury of Small tells why one of the biggest tools of frugality should also be one of the most desirable.
1 Bryant Park and the LEED Problem makes the case that glass curtain walls are one of the worst frugality tools.
3 - the Localized Operations examines the huge impact of conditioning smaller areas.
4 - the Expanded Comfort Range describes one of the biggest factors affecting building energy usage.
6 - the Many Uses illustrates multi-use building elements using Katrina Cottage VIII.
LEED for Homes Awards - or - How To Shoot Yourself in the Foot measures award-winning homes against the foundation principles of the Original Green.
the Green Top 10 for 2010 proposes ten emerging sustainability trends.
Original Green Places - South Main examines a Colorado community through the lenses of Original Green foundations.
the WalMart Sustainability Index measures WalMart's new standard against the foundations of the Original Green.
SmartDwelling I - the Invisible Things illustrates how solar panels may be detailed to not be seen.
Living In Season describes a lifestyle that requires much less conditioning, resulting in equipment left off much of the year.
SmartDwelling I - Sideyard Sail covers a novel device for redirecting breezes into side yards.
SmartDwelling I - Laundry Eave describes an architectural element that helps you to better air-dry your clothes.
SmartDwelling I - Windows & Shutters details the novel window system that funnels breezes into the house.
Down the Unlovable Carbon Stair-Steps is a very important post that shows why the beginning of frugality is lovability.
WSJ on SmartDwelling I - The Tower of Wind & Water tells the first of several stories about SmartDwelling I, including some of the ways it achieves frugality with elements that are lovable.
After Earth Day - What Next? What Can I Do? is the top ten things we each can do to be more sustainable, and includes things like building smaller and operating naturally.
Tiny Places - Mike & Patty's looks at the inherent frugality of small structures.
Diagramming the Original Green shows the relationship between the foundations of sustainable places and sustainable buildings.
Sustainability and the Meltdown
Problem 2 - The Supply-Side Focus describes how manufacturers' increases in efficiency can't keep up with our increases in consumption.
Problem 4 - The Gizmo Green Focus makes the case that focusing on Gizmo Green solutions is a losing proposition if we hope to achieve real sustainability.
Problem 5 - The Trouble with Consumption points out that our current Consuming Economy simply isn't sustainable. We must begin to transition back to a Conserving Economy, where things are valued by how far they're handed down, rather than how quickly they're used up.
Problem 7 - The Fallacy of Efficiency points out that efficiency isn’t all it’s cracked up to be; matter of fact, it can be downright counter-productive.
Towards Sustainable Architecture describes the foundation of principles of the New Urban Guild’s Project:SmartDwelling, which is based on frugality that is passive and natural first, so that less mechanical conditioning is required.
Frugal Buildings on OGTV
Lovable Wind Generators discusses the need for wind turbines to not only generate electricity, but to be visually pleasant as well.
Invisible Solar Panels makes the case that "if it's hideous, hide it!"
Frugal Buildings Albums
The SmartDwelling I poster illustrates a home designed to be both highly frugal and lovable.
SmartDwelling I illustrations are the images in the background of the poster illustrating frugality measures.
The Sky Method describes a development method far more affordable because it doesn't burden the developer with onerous levels of upfront infrastructure.
Frugal Buildings Presentations
All presentations entitled "Original Green" on the Presentations page deal with all eight foundations of sustainability, including frugal buildings.
The Sky Method is an in-depth description of the Sky Method, a development paradigm that largely bypasses today's broken development financing system.