Book Review: Natural Remodeling for the Not-So-Green House

Book Review: Natural Remodeling for the Not-So-Green House
By Patricia Dines
From The Next STEP newsletter
May/June 2008 (VIII/3)

Natural Remodeling for the Not-So-Green House, by Carol Venolia & Kelly Lerner, 280 pages.

Green remodeling is a hot topic nowadays, but too often the focus is primarily on substituting new green products for conventional ones. But being green is much more than that! To truly reduce our shared impact on the earth (and be smart about costs), we need to step back and explore how we can green the project not just the products.

That's why I was so delighted to find Natural Remodeling, which lays out a step-by-step process for "bringing your home into harmony with nature." The benefits of this approach, they say, include increased satisfaction, more opportunities to green economically, and a restored connection to the living world.

From the outset, it's clear something different is going on here. An early page describes why, contrary to common thinking, renovating a current home is usually more green than building a new green one, because it leverages the natural resources already used, existing community connections, and more.

The authors (two award-winning eco-architects) then lead you through a design journey that starts with your land. What are its natural rhythms, and how can you align with them to meet your specific needs? For instance, how can you work with the sun's patterns to get warmth, beauty, and illumination? Ditto with air and water flows.

What a lovely way to see your home and what it can be. And so your earth-centered plan begins to emerge, as you discover a sweet little spot to place a bench, and explore green ways to manage moisture and energy, use space efficiently, expand wisely, integrate your landscaping, and much more.

Now, with your plan sketched out, you're ready to consider building materials. Here, the authors offer an intelligent discussion of how to balance green criteria (such as toxicity, performance, durability, embodied energy, and more) for your specific situation. There's even a reference table showing how common materials meet these criteria! (After all, green is a relative term; no material has zero impacts.) Then they help you fulfill your vision by planning the construction and managing the job site (including recycling your waste).

Throughout this full-color book you'll find beautifully-lush pictures, original and engaging text, useful information boxes, extensive case studies, personal stories, and unexpected perspectives such as "How Does Nature Create a Home?"

These rich details provide tangible support for aligning your home (and yourself) thoughtfully and joyfully with the earth. You'll surely find yourself inspired by the possibilities.

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