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The Origins and Meaning of a Sustainable Home and Lifestyle

The word sustainable is used in many different contexts these days. It has become deeply embedded in the vernacular and used when people discuss everything from home-building, lifestyles, and public policy. From our vehicles to our homes to our appliances, the idea of ‘going green’ is far-reaching and forward-thinking. It involves the underlying idea that our lifestyle should consider the environment and the viability of the world around us. 

So what is behind this whole movement and what does it mean to have a sustainable home? 

Let’s dig into the ideas here. 

How did the Sustainability Movement Begin?

It’s hard to say exactly. Concerns about the environment began sprouting up across various areas and sectors, but let’s take this story back to the humble beginnings of a little day called Earth Day. 

The first earth day started on April 22, 1970, and was backed up by Governor Gaylord Nelson when national and international awareness and conversation surrounding environmental issues was growing. This day was first established in Universities. The idea was that it was used as a sit-in where college students would be educated about modern-day practices and their impacts on the environment. These college sit-ins were modeled after the Vietnam sit-in protests that sparked up around the country during the late sixties and early seventies. 

Students wanted to get environmental issues into the national policy agenda. The conversations and attention from these Earth Day sit-ins did just that. It got people to pay attention. 

Lawmakers Begin to Pay Attention 

One year after the first Earth Day, about a quarter of the population agreed with the idea that protecting the environment was important. A few years after these Earth Day conversations, central legislation around environment protection would pass. This includes laws such as:

  • The Clean Air Act
  • The Water Quality Improvement Act
  • The Endangered Species Act
  • The Toxic Substances Control Act
  • The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act

What Do We Mean by Sustainable Homes? 

The sustainable building or ‘green building’ movement and tradition may have gained steam in the last few decades, but it has been around a lot longer than that. According to some architectural historians, the idea of creating buildings that would minimize the impact on the environment emerged as early as the 19th century. Buildings such as the New York Times building in New York used deep-set windows which were architectural techniques to minimize the impact on the environment and use design to control interior temperature. 

In the 1970s, the high-rise apartment buildings had risen to prominence in the United States, but it was around that time that a group of innovative architects and designers were moved to action by the growing environmental movement that had taken hold. Another event that drew many Americans’ attention towards the question of fuel reliability and resources was the oil embargo of 73. This caused long lines of consumers waiting to fill up and drew out questions about how much we really should be reliant only on fossil fuels. 

According to the Natural Stone Institute, some of the buildings built around this era around the growing principles of environmental protection included the Willis Faber and Dumas headquarters in England, the Gregory Bateson Building in California. The latter used innovative energy-sensitive photovoltaic (solar cells). A lot of the solar panels that grew in popularity in the 21st century, started with research in the late seventies and 80s. 

The White House Goes Greene

During President Clinton’s administration, many environmentalists pushed the “Greening of the White House.” The idea was to improve the energy efficiency of the White House in order to further spread the idea of making environmentally friendly techniques a priority and further inject it into the public mind. It was reported that this effort saved $150,000 per year in energy and water costs. These savings were achieved by altering and improving the roofing, altering lighting, controlling waste, and better office equipment that saved energy. 

All across the 1970s, research that further expanded techniques on energy efficiency processes established a strong foundation that would move into the next century. 

What Makes a Sustainable Home in the 21st Century?

Today’s building techniques have improved considerably in the past few decades. Today, when building a new home, a prospective homeowner has the option to choose a variety of characteristics that will make their home stand out on the sustainability scale. 

Some of the main characteristics include: 

  • Building materials
  • Design principles that improve energy usage and efficiency 
  • Proper and quality insulation 
  • Appliances that are built with sustainability in mind
  • Plumbing fixtures that have longevity and improve water usage 
  • Use of smart systems such as thermostats and other areas of the home
  • Home features that bring in nature

Want to Learn More About Seattle’s Leading Sustainable Custom Home Builder?

Here at Heartwood Builders, we aim to implement innovative and cutting-edge technologies and design principles to improve our homes’ sustainability and energy efficiency. From quality materials to the design, we create high-performing homes that redefine comfort. 

Call us at Heartwood Builders today.

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