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Low-Tech Sustainable Houses and The Weekend Poll

Visiting the cutting-edge designs on display in the Solar Decathlon actually got me thinking about some low-tech houses in Bermuda that have been employing green principles, by necessity, for many years. The islands of Bermuda have no rivers or freshwater lakes, so residents have to collect their own rainwater from their roofs and store it in a tank. That's why Bermuda houses have those pretty, white roofs; they're treated with a special fungus-killing paint every couple of years to help keep the residents' water supply clean. The roofs are also built to withstand hurricane-force winds. After all, evacuating the country is hardly a practical option, so Bermudans need a tough refuge. You can find more information about this traditional building style from This Old House.

I chatted about the way we've drifted away from old, low-tech solutions the other day with Lance Davis, a member of the American Institute of Architects' environmental committee. We were looking at the "dogtrot" -- a traditional Cajun breezeway that's part of the University of Louisiana's Decathlon house. I have to paraphrase here, but he noted that technology, in many ways, has allowed architects and designers to drift away from sensible solutions. A room can be built without operable windows, for example, thanks to the availability of air conditioning. That's something we can all keep in mind as we think about remodeling or building new homes. If it's sited properly on the lot to make the most of sunlight and shade, roofs are designed to handle local weather conditions, and windows are placed to make the most of cool breezes, you'll have to rely less on energy-hogging technology.

Weekend Reading: Lots of coverage of the Solar Decathlon, as promised. (And don't miss the videos on the Post's Real Estate page) And Green Scene columnist Joel M. Lerner has a great list of places where you can sharpen your gardening skills--while digging around in some of the most fantastic public gardens in the Washington area.

The Weekend Poll

This is a non-scientific user poll. Results are not statistically valid and cannot be assumed to reflect the views of Washington Post users as a group or the general population.

By Elizabeth Razzi  |  October 9, 2009; 2:30 PM ET
Categories:  Fortress Home , Home features , New construction , Outdoors , Poll , Remodeling and repair , Weekend Poll  
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