Eco Hustler: Who or what inspired you to become an architect
Michael Joy: Growing up I had two favorite activities - day dreaming & drawing. For my 7th birthday I asked for a drafting table instead of a bicycle. I used to keep myself busy for hours on end sitting on my stool sketching away. On Sundays my family would attend mass in a Gothic church. I vividly recall how I used to lean way back in the pew and stare directly up at the vaulted ceiling soaring overhead. My eyes would slowly trace the geometry of the pointed arches and my mind would wander. As I grew older this insatiable visual curiosity, my propensity to draw and an interest in mathematics ultimately lead me down the academic path towards architecture.
Eco Hustler: What does it mean to be a LEED certified architect?
Michael Joy: LEED certification means I have been formally recognized by the US Green Building Council for successfully completing their green building training program. In short, I have the technical training to apply a specific "green" framework to the design process that will result in a building solution that will use fewer resources to erect and to operate while simultaneously creating an environment that is healthier and more enjoyable to inhabit.
EH: What is building green?
MJ: Building green is not a concept that is entirely new to the Human species. Basically up until the late 19th century the civilized world as a whole was doing a pretty good job at living in balance with the natural environment. It was not until the advent of the industrial revolution, with its ever increasing thirst for fossil fuels that things started to shift. We have seen in this last decade or two clear signs that this past century has not been a good one to our planet. So the idea of going "green" is to move civilization off of this unsustainable path of industry and unbridled consumption and onto a new path returning us to a more harmonious relationship with the Earth. I find it is important to think of the green movement as equal parts moving forward and returning to the way we were.
EH: What are some realistic and simple ways to green an already existing home?
MJ: The author Michael Pollan gives great advice to people who are interested in eating healthy. Instead of embracing "health" & "diet" foods that reduce calories by using synthetic sweeteners and partially hydrogenated oils we should simplify our choices and eat things that we know where they came from. For instance an in-season apple is a much better choice for a snack than a power bar. His rule of thumb is to try and choose foods that have short ingredient lists with substances that you recognize rather than complex chemicals.
I feel that these rules apply to making green choices for our homes. When choosing furnishings or materials think simple and local over exotic and sustainable. A New England Pine FSC certified wood floor is in many ways a "greener" choice than a bamboo pre-engineered floor that is made in China and shipped half way across the globe. The pine is also rapidly renewable, locally harvested and installs with a few simple nails as opposed to chemical based epoxies for the bamboo floor.
Here are some other green tips.
1. Buy wind energy offsets from your electricity provider. Most electric companies provide the choice to buy your energy from sources that use green technologies to harvest energy. Call your providers to see what your options are. The more people demand these green sources the sooner they will begin to replace fossil fuel plants.
2. Used / antique furniture is a fantastic way to make your home green. Going vintage does two things, keeps a perfectly functional piece furniture out of a landfill and second keeps you from buying something that required additional energy and materials to fabricate and ship. I would wager that $50 at your local yard sale would result in a furniture piece of superior quality over a comparable piece at Target.
3. Make sure all your fixtures, electronics and appliances are being maintained on a regular basis. Vacuum out vents and filters, insulate water heaters, fix leaky faucets, weather strip windows and doors, install dimmer switches, put all electronics on a power strip and switch them off using that (you would be amazed how much energy your TV uses when off!).
4. Learn to buy things to last longer. The goal is to break the cycle of use & discard. Whenever you find yourself contemplating a new purchase ask yourself "how long will this last me?" When the inevitable time comes to get rid of something be sure to look at any labels on the device or furniture. Manufacturers are increasingly placing specific information in regards to what needs to be done at the end of the product's life cycle. When in doubt reach out to your local sanitation department - they will surely help you out.
EH: What advice would you offer to a non-green person?
MJ: Engage the world. Appreciate the environment and the communities we live in. Strive to be direct and honest in everything that you apply yourself to. Use less and interact with your friends and neighbors more.