BACK TO BASICS
By Melissa Mylchreest
If you ask a handful of architects, engineers, and builders from in and around Montana, “What’s new in sustainable residential design? What are the latest and greatest green innovations that you’re excited about?” you might expect their answers to be full of gizmos and widgets, high-tech solutions for saving energy and money. But while you might hear a bit about in-home battery banks, electric car chargers, or how solar power has come a long way (but still has a long way to go), you might be surprised by the take-home messages you hear: Less is more. Keep it simple. Keep it natural. Source locally. Better relationships lead to better homes.
“It all comes down to some really straightforward things,” said David Koel, design principal at CTA Architects Engineers. “Just bringing it back to basics, and trying to work with nature rather than against it.” All [interviewees] agree that in order to be sustainable and environmentally friendly, homes ideally should be designed with that goal in mind, right from the start.
“It’s an important early step to take with the homeowner and the architect,” Crane said. “Just sitting down and saying ‘OK, how can we make this house as efficient as possible?’ Having those good collaborative relationships right at the beginning is key for smart design.” That said, he emphasized that clients shouldn’t worry that they’ll need to sacrifice their aesthetic vision for the sake of sustainable design. “The earlier we get involved, the better we can create a situation where we’re working within their design to make it as efficient as possible.”
Schack agreed, stressing that beauty and a holistic approach to design are critical pieces of the sustainability equation. “You can have the views you dream of, and a beautiful gathering space for your family, and at the same time operate on a minimum of energy — and that can be achieved without a lot of architectural gymnastics.”