Sue Roaf, Manuel Fuentes, Stephanie Thomas ~ 2003, Architectural Press.
This is the second edition of this book and has two introductions – one for each edition. The introductions carry the usual messages of doom regarding rising sea levels and diminished fossil fuels that pang of preaching to the converted, but sets the context for the book. This is a book about eco-houses and in its terms that means zero fossil fuel and low or zero carbon buildings.
The books starts with a chapter on ‘the building as an analogy‘ and provokes consideration of buildings and purpose through the use of a number of analogies, from the relatively straight-forward A Cool Core Building to the more stretching and less obvious A Hobbit Hole.
We’re then into more practical matters – the choice of building materials and consideration of embodied energy, recycling and environmental impacts. Then insulation and the design of the building envelope. After a brief jaunt into the esoteric territory of ‘Building in Soul‘ we return once again to practical matters – ventilation, healthy house design (a favourite subject of mine) then the four key areas of heating, electricity, hot water and general water consumption.
The book finishes with a series of 24 insightful and statistic packed case studies from around the world.
Overall, this book is a pretty good read for the eco-builder. This isn’t one to sit and read cover-to-cover, more a reference source to dip into as information needs dictate or time allows. As reference book it has frustrations & flaws – due to their diverse sources, the diagrams & charts are not consistent in format, the writing style varies and sometimes the material lacks a theme or clarity of purpose – for example, the analogies introduced at the start of the book are a seemingly random selection. It is a pick and mix of eco and zero carbon / fossil fuel information and advice. A book that sensibly seeks to explore and encourage the establishment of a new eco building vernacular.
“By the middle of the century we will probably all have to live in zero fossil fuel homes. The seed of the ideas sown in this book by then will have grown into the New Vernacular of housing for the twenty-first century and beyond.”
(Towards the New Vernacular page 279)
Rather grandly, but well, said.