The Living Zone

The Living Zone

By Dan Maginn
Let’s talk design for a minute. It’s important to remember that potential modifications to your home must be carefully considered before you implement them. If you blindly follow the prescriptions of a well-meaning energy wonk without understanding the experiential implications of his suggestions, you could wind up with a perfectly energy-efficient house that’s perfectly uninspiring. Know this: Sustainable design doesn’t have to suck.1

Light right.
For starters, replace nearly all2 of your incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs).

New to you.
Using preowned furniture in your home capitalizes on embodied energy. It doesn’t need to be a mid-century-modern classic; antemillennial curiosities also have their place.

Clean green.
So you feel dazed and confused after wiping down your new (old) Paul McCobb table? That’s not good. Research nontoxic cleaning materials and use them.

Beware the phantom load.
Off is the new On. Figure out a clever way to plug your small appliances and electronic gear into power strips, and then turn them off when you leave the house each day. Consider the constantly flashing "12:00 a.m." on your coffeemaker as a badge of honor.

  1. On the contrary: A well-designed home that recognizes and responds to the unique characteristics of its site—–its orientation, geography, and climatic patterns—–is inherently sustainable.
  2. Why not replace them all? Well, if the flexibility to adapt your light levels in a few places is critical, it might make sense to stick with a dimmable incandescent in those places for the time being—–at least until dimmable CFLs or LEDs become more affordable. Theory being: It’s better to use a wee bit more energy and actually use the space than it is to use a wee bit less energy and not use the space because it’s too bright. Another option: Go with all CFLs and spark up a candle when the mood hits.

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