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Published on January 10th, 2012 | by Glenn Meyers


Five Top Sustainable Building Practitioners

International resettlement pioneer George Nez and architect Doug Eichelberger stand before their salvage structure at the Denver Sustainability Park.

We like those considering changing parts of the planet in new and better ways.

For building purposes, let’s start with the issue of sustainability. Energy, economics, material use, land and water use are primary considerations any architect, developer, or owner should place on the design scales before starting anything, if they’re worth their designer salts, that is.

We begin with this list of five sustainable practitioners and field practices that we like:

  1. Earthships: As the website states, “Earthships are radically sustainable buildings made with recycled materials. Earthships can be built in any part of the world, in any climate and still provide 
solar power, catchwater, contained sewage treatment and sustainable food production.
  2. Gabion wall barns and trash barns designed by Colorado architect, Doug Eichelberger. Gabion baskets, traditionally used for building retaining wall and controlling erosion, also can be used as a homebuilding product for emergency settlements or by those wishing to construct walls using new material approaches, says the architect. Using standard wire gabions, Eichelberger collected rocks from the field, filling the gabions.

    Eichelberger stuccos over trash plastic wall.

  3. Nearby, Eichelberger used a baler to manufacture walls from non-recycled plastics and paper (before single stream recycling) for what would ultimately become his barn and sculpture workshop. This video provides a great story of this demonstration he wishes to share with those in need of shelter worldwide.
  4. Then there is Jim Frasche’s recently finished aquaponics greenhouse located in the Denver Sustainability Park – a place where tomatoes, herbs, and vegetables grow year-round without needing any soil, only water and recirculated fish waste. The fish, in turn, can be eaten and enjoyed by those inclined. This is especially important in poorer countries where access to food is limited.
  5. And while on the subject of poverty, there is architect Stuart Ohlson’s “Humanitarian House,” a habitat measuring 13 feet square, totaling 169 square feet. More refined than a tent, the structure features five rooms – a great room, two bedrooms, storage, and a private toilet/shower room. The lightweight, compact substructure is made from PVC pipes. When covered with a plastic membrane, this abode can sleep 10 people and will last for 10 years – a huge improvement from standard plastic resettlement units in Haiti, Afghanistan, and Palestine, to name a few disheartening resettlement camps in the world. He has produced his model for approximately $1700, and believes with mass-produced components the price could approach $1,000. Put another way, with 10 people and a total cost running anywhere from $100 to $170 a person.

    Stuart Ohlson's Humanitarian House

There are many designers who place sustainability first and foremost, many we haven’t mentioned here. We salute them and ask to hear more about their ideas or works so we can post it on GBE.
Photos: GR Meyers and Earthship
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About the Author

Writer, documentary producer, and director. Meyers is a contributor to CleanTechnica, and founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

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