12 Days of Sustainable Reads: Day 3 | Digitized House

12 Days of Sustainable Reads: Day 3

12 Days of Sustainable Reads: Day 3
Day 3: TreeHouse Annual 2015

For Day 3 of our 12 Days of Sustainable Reads series, we could not resist revisiting a recent article on one of our favorite books: The TreeHouse Annual 2015, a decidedly short read that is exceedingly long on sustainability. As we articulate in the article below, this little book that could delivers its short-burst editorial goods in a big way. And you can’t beat the cost: It’s complimentary, if you are lucky enough to get your hands on one. One additional benefit: We noticed this 64-page book is quite compact, measuring just a few millimeters smaller all-around than an Apple iPad Air 2—meaning it just might just fit into someone’s Christmas stocking. Enjoy.


TreeHouse, a Texas-based home design and improvement center focused on green and sustainability, recently published their first Annual report. But don’t let the fact this small company never mentions their balance sheet in the book get in the way of a good read.

Annual reports—those often-glossy Big Co. compendiums filled with financial facts and figures, tell-alls of company business activities, and liberal doses of Co.-centric illustrations, infographics, and photographs—are designed largely as retention tools for current shareholders while encouraging potential investors to climb on board.  So when TreeHouse, a privately-held, Austin, Texas-based home improvement retailer with a single store location, recently announced in a Facebook post they had published their first TreeHouse Annual, our curiosity was piqued.

The TreeHouse Annual
The TreeHouse Annual covers a broad-brush swath of topics around sustainability, long-term health, environmental stewardship, and community.

Now TreeHouse, a positive outlier in the realm of home improvement retail stores, describes themselves as “a home design and performance center focused on sustainability, health, and top quality.” Alright, we have visited them and get that. But why the Annual?

Is it possible for us to build and maintain our shelters without causing irreparable harm to the world, its creatures, and ourselves? – Jason Ballard, TreeHouse President & Co-founder

That burning question was answered on page 3 of the Annual by the affable Jason Ballard, president and co-founder of TreeHouse via, well, posing another question. Asks Ballard in his welcoming note: “Is it possible for us to build and maintain our shelters without causing irreparable harm to the world, its creatures, and ourselves? We could give all sorts of facts, figures, and statistics about why this is such an important question, but the truth is that we don’t get out of bed in the morning because of stats . . .”

All the more evidence this is not your father’s Annual.

In sharp contrast to that Big Co. annual, the TreeHouse take on relaying the company’s story prefers to show rather than tell through compelling original editorial and creative elements, and that approach makes this 68-page softbound book feel and read much more like a magazine than a report. And most definitely not a kin of the glossy catalog, though they managed to work in a 4-page section in the center of the book entitled “Tech Roundup,” a nice collection of smart-home tech products rendered in watercolor illustrations.

TreeHouse tooled up to produce its first Annual with help from a trio of editorial and creative professionals.

A total of 11 other articles grace this complimentary book, covering a broad-brush swath of topics as supporting cast members in the TreeHouse mantra to support long-term health, sustainability, environmental stewardship, and their community. These range from behind-the-scenes stories of relevant architects, builders, designers, and suppliers; to rainwater harvesting, recipes, and restauranteurs; and as far-flung as National Geographic-worthy photo galleries of the Texas landscape (from the cameras of photographer Jody Horton). In addition to Horton, TreeHouse also teamed up with journalist Logan Ward and graphic designer Blair Richardson to help craft the annual.

Among some of the more notable editorial bits:

  • The saga of triathlete-and-bicycle-shop-owner-turned-healthy-home-builder Adam Reiser, where living in an older, mold-infested house sickened and nearly killed him. That watershed moment led to the demolition of the old structure, carefully-planned construction of an air-quality centric replacement home, and the impetus to launch launch building company Shelter.
  • Small-house design insights from Hatch Works partners Adam Talianchich and Ashley Menger, who brought their design-build expertise together to make these smaller places live bigger.
  • A backgrounder and timeline around the people and process behind the start-up of the Austin Energy Green Building program in 1991, a nationally recognized residential building rating system that directly led to the formation of the U.S. Green Building Council and their Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) program.

So, we think it’s worth a read if you are contemplating a minor or major remodel, planning to build a healthy and zero net energy home from the ground up, or just want to get away from the facts and figures of the typical annual report and consume something entirely different.  And you may find yourself compelled, as were we, to try the Grilled Kale Salad recipe on page 26. It was delicious.

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Tom Kolnowski

Tom Kolnowski is the Chief Content Officer & Founder of Digitized House Media, LLC, the publisher of Digitized House | Guide to the Connected Home. When he isn’t writing about smart home technology, sustainability, and high-performance architecture, you’ll find him exploring faraway destinations with his family.

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12 Days of Sustainable Reads: Day 3

by Tom Kolnowski
3 min

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