Tin Roof...Rusted

Or, Why Starting with an Existing House is Better:

A lot of attention is given to building with green/reclaimed materials - and shows like Building Green and HGTV's Red Hot & Green offer viewers tips and resources on starting from the (respected) ground up. Don't get me wrong, potential home builders should definitely do their research when it comes to the materials they choose, but existing houses are an automatically greener solutions...mainly because, well, they already exist.

Many people curse the urban sprawl of the cities and suburbs, and react by buying some secluded piece of (usually forested) acreage, razing it, and then "building responsibly" with materials bought off another perfectly good house that was demolished to make way for some other person's environmental guilt. Due to this lovely recession we've been in, there are a number of existing houses available. These houses sit on parcels of land that have already been developed, and are made out of materials that have already been used. Shouldn't we start from there?

The idea of building on the least amount of land as possible is not a new idea. Ian McHarg "pioneered the idea of ecological planning" and his 1969 book, Design with Nature, addressed humans' need for living space, but suggested we start by recognizing Nature's space as well. He referred to Man as a "Planetary Disease" and suggested an "ecological sensibility that accepted the interwoven worlds of the human and the natural, and sought to more fully and intelligently design human environments in concert with the conditions of setting, climate and environment."

Not bad advice, and with the renovation of Better Farm we are trying our best to keep in line with the ecological system that we're in. Besides continuing to spatially reconstruct our lil' old farmhouse, eventually the existing barn across the street will be re-purposed while some additional living structures are built around the property - either on already developed land or respectfully within the surrounding forest (think: tree houses). Stay tuned!

"Before" photo of Old Kopp Farmhouse from Trouble in River City. A perfect example of starting with what's there. And to get yourself in the green remodeling mindset, check out some tips from This Old House.