It is fitting that we begin our 12 Days of Sustainable Reads series with what we consider to be the bible of sustainable home construction: Green from the Ground Up, by David Johnston and Scott Gibson. This 330-page book is subtitled as Sustainable, Healthy, and Energy-Efficient Home Construction and additionally pre-titled as A Builder’s Guide by the publisher, but we think every prospective high-performance homeowner should have it on their bookshelf or e-reader before talking to architects or builders about the genesis of their project.
That brings us to our next point: All of the books we’re suggesting here as sustainable reads are much more than members of a carefully curated list: They are coming straight off our bookshelf, where they have been residing for some period of time, many of them heavily bookmarked by the affliction we call Post-It Flag Syndrome. You won’t find your next page-turner novel on our list, but then again you don’t need to read every page of our selections in sequence to glean value and inspiration from them. You can pick and choose chapters based on what is most relevant to your project, and then easily come back to those segments as we often do, guided by your physical or digital bookmarks.
Living in healthier, more comfortable houses that are less expensive to operate and last longer is certainly an attractive idea. Who wouldn’t want to participate in that? – David Johnston & Scott Gibson
Now, it would be easy to dismiss Green from the Ground Up as yet another hum-drum construction manual, a prescriptive tome having little relevance for the engaged homeowner. But it has none of the text-heavy stigma often associated with such reference works, and in flaunting deference to the genre, Johnston and Gibson have delivered a carefully measured balance between copy and creative, with each chapter succinctly written, smartly photographed, and beautifully illustrated. Best Practices and The Green Factor sidebars woven throughout the chapters encapsulate the salient points, often serving up ready-built snippets you will want to add to your project planning checklist before talking with an architect or builder.
But what struck closest to home for us was this passage on the first page of the opening chapter, posturing the concept of sustainable building in the most pragmatic terms. As Johnston and Gibson write: “What we alternately call green building or sustainable building is a way for people to make a positive difference in the world around them—if not reversing, then at least reducing their impact on the planet. Not coincidentally, it has its own rewards on a scale that all of us can immediately understand. If becoming model citizens of Planet Earth is too much to get our arms around, living in healthier, more comfortable houses that are less expensive to operate and last longer is certainly an attractive idea. Who wouldn’t want to participate in that?”
And it was precisely to that last point—“Living in healthier, more comfortable houses that are less expensive to operate and last longer is certainly an attractive idea”—where we found ourselves returning time and time again as we were formulating the publishing mission of Digitized House. We think that resonates with many.
Coming from The Taunton Press (publishers of the magazines Fine Homebuilding, Fine Woodworking, and others), this 2008 book is filled with chapters that cover the topic of sustainable building comprehensively, as follows:
Green Building Basics
The House as a System
Planning and Design
Roofs and Attics
Windows and Doors
Heating, Ventilation, and Air-Conditioning
Siding and Decking
Indoor Air Quality
Is this sustainable read compelling enough to curl up with on your window seat? Maybe not, but it will give you a fresh perspective on the directions you may want to take with your next construction or remodel project.
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.