Recommended Reading

Magazines

For longevity, it’s tough to beat Mother Earth News. Their first publication was in January, 1970! Despite its strong focus on rural living, even a city-slicker can find wise living tips in each issue. For those of you who are planning on living in the country, this one is a must.

Fine Homebuilding Magazine is an excellent resource, especially for builders. There were years when the magazine mostly ignored green building, but things have certainly changed for Fine Homebuilding. Fine Homebuilding is Yankee-centric (only the occasional article features homes built for ours or Western climates), but along with the skill-related articles for building stairs or taking care of your router, energy efficiency or green building articles are usually found in each issue. The magazine is published by Taunton Press, which also publishes Fine Woodworking, Fine Cooking, Fine Gardening, and Threads as well as the series of Sarah Susanka’s “Not So Big…” series of books.

For general environmental information, subscribe to E – The Environmental Magazine. Well written, but usually brief articles abound on all imaginable aspects of eco-living.

For gardening, turn to Organic Gardening Magazine.

So what about Dwell Magazine? Occasionally, one can find an environmentally-appropriate house or apartment in the pages of Dwell, but not often enough for my taste. Playing urban “yin” to Mother Earth News’ rural “yang,” Dwell sacrifices practicality, durability, value, and likely also common sense on the altar of 21st Century style. I subscribed for one year. That was enough.

Books

Boy, do I have books to recommend! If I listed all the books I like on the subject of green building, it would take days just to list them all. So, I’ll just add my favorites to this list from time to time starting with the general topic books and postpone most commentary for now.

The Natural House Book, by David Pearson
Earth to Spirit, In Search of Natural Architecture, also by David Pearson
Gentle Architecture, by Malcolm Wells. This was the book I read just out of college that inspired and encouraged me most
Eco-Nest, Creating Sustainable Sanctuaries of Clay, Straw, and Timber, by Paula Baker-Laporte and Robert Laporte
Prescriptions for a Healthy House, by Laporte, Elliott, and Banta
Your Green Home, by Alex Wilson
The Not So Big House, Creating the Not So Big House, Outside the Not So Big House, and other books by Sarah Susanka
The House You Build, by Duo Dickinson
Your Natural Healthy Home, by Alan Berman
 

Even though the book “Your New House,” by Alan and Denise Fields isn’t perfect, it’s a great place to start for basic new home exploration. It’s a basic consumer-oriented book written in plain language loaded with common sense and weighs advantages and disadvantages of each direction to go in moving to a new house even if you were to buy an existing home rather than have one built for you. Differing from all other books on my list, this one deals with loans, mortgages, and realtors in addition to the design and construction process. Remember that the book was published in 2000 on the sunny side of the housing crisis, and I believe you get a more than decent take on the topic. This book is probably the only one in this list that doesn’t devote much ink to ecological considerations (one of the reasons it isn’t perfect).

Local Organizations

I am a founding member of Earthen Construction Initiative. We are engaged in bringing earthen construction back to San Antonio and central Texas. We have members from all over the country, so we hope to expand our efforts outside the region, but in the meantime, ECI is providing educational opportunities, workshops, and research to provide a framework for the methodology to satisfy code language. In 2018, ECI was successful in recommending amendments to the San Antonio building code that were approved by City Council that year.

The Alamo Group of the Sierra Club is more than a group that participates in outings. Join the Sierra Club and attend their monthly meetings and find out they are also interested in legislative issues, local ordinances, and utility policies. A long-time activist group meeting monthly at the Witte Museum, the Alamo Group of the Sierra Club is a good resource for area ecologically-centered interests.

A non-profit group dedicated to promoting residential green building in San Antonio is Build San Antonio Green. I was active in the formation of BSAG as the family of residential green building programs were written for area builders, architects, and designers. I stepped down from my position as technical coordinator at the end of 2009. Despite the focus on builders, the BSAG website is a good resource for the general public to find builders, professionals, and products related to green building. Keep in mind however, that Build San Antonio Green certifies individual houses and does not certify builders or architects. At some point, I hope that the listing of BSAG members will also include the number of houses they built or designed that are certified as green by being built with BSAG program guidelines. Most of the members have yet to build or design a certified house. So if you do contact any of the BSAG members, ask how many houses they hold certifications for.

The Internet

Online resources may or not be dependable or reputable. You probably don’t have to be told to use caution when reading anything on the internet. Since I’m a believer in the predominance of the better side of humanity (basically), the vast majority of online resources are probably very worthwhile as you continue with your new home dreams. If you have any particular sites or blogs you recommend, please feel free to send me an e-mail with suggestions for listing here. Meanwhile, here are some selections that quickly come to mind.

Sustainable Sources, with green stalwart and ringmaster Bill Christensen at the helm is beyond a doubt the premier starting point when researching green building resources in Central Texas. Based in Austin, Bill is well connected with the primary individuals and businesses at the heart of the local green building and green living movement in the region. Bill is very generous with helping all of us in the field to network with each other and be available to the general public. He was instrumental with my move to this WordPress-based webpage and blog format.

I highly recommend the Building Science podcast available at wherever you go to subscribe to podcasts.

A very extensive natural building website is available at Green Home Building.

The Healthy Building Network focuses on toxic materials and good indoor air quality issues.

Texas environmental issues can be found at (where else?) Environment Texas.

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