Contributed by Mark Johnson FAIA
My inspiration for this blog series on ‘Living Small, Living Local’ is derived from several sources and an epiphany of sorts. The inspiration includes living in a 850SF apartment in historic Plymouth, Michigan; the Design your Dwelling Competition from Google SketchUp and Dwell; the bi-annual U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon; and the upcoming Mission Zero Fest in Ann Arbor, MI. The epiphany is a perfect storm that combined the brute force of the housing market collapse, two corporate downsizings, college tuition expenses, selling a home at a loss, cashing in an emaciated 401K, a divorce, and ultimately two relocations to pursue full time work. It all piled on in short order, forcing a rapid migration to the ‘new normal,’ a whiplash many of us have experienced in recent years. I’m resilient thanks to God, so these personal circumstances were not devastating, yet they caused me to do a 180 degree turn that now includes the reality of living small, living local.
At the historic Plymouth town square. Left to right: Local merchants (plus a few national chains), the Penn Theater, our public fountain and farmer’s market.
The town square in Plymouth, Michigan is only five blocks from my apartment, a deliberate decision I made when moving here over a year ago. I wanted amenities to be within walking distance from home. This choice has been wonderful for more reasons than I imagined. I now walk daily for exercise and my destination is often the town square for either a Starbuck’s, a movie, a meal, a local festival or shopping. It’s a dramatically reduced carbon footprint from the way I formerly lived. My local community of friends includes the delightful employees at Starbucks. I often work there during the evenings and use their free WiFi. I know every ‘associate’ by name. We share stories, and they have invited me to birthday parties, church, and their homes. When I travel on business, we stay in touch through Facebook and I get a Starbucks hug whenever I return from a trip. I can’t imagine a nicer community of friends than those I’ve discovered by ‘living small.’
Click on this image to see and download the winner of the Design your Dwelling Competition by Drew Wilgus.
The Google 3D Warehouse is the world’s largest repository of 3D models, composed of virtually anything that can be drawn. It’s the result of contributors from all over the world using either the free or professional version of Google SketchUp software to model the objects they like. Google and Dwell teamed up awhile ago to create an international design competition to design your own home. The 130 entries are personal and compelling examples of ‘living small.’ Enjoy perusing this collection of designs for the Design your Dwelling Competition.
The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon - Opening ceremony, 2007.
It was my privilege to collaborate directly with college and university teams of industrious students who designed and built experimental homes for two Solar Decathlons. They were held on the Washington DC Mall and attracted more than 100,000 attendees who wanted to learn about living green and ‘living small.’ The designs are high-spirited examples of what can be done using state-of-the-art technology to create a green living environment. Enjoy the 2007 video recap at resourcemedia.tv. The 2013 Solar Decathlon is already in the works. Updates can be seen at the Solar Decathlon website.
Click on this image to watch a short video about ‘living local’ in Ann Arbor, Michigan, at 723 Spring Street.
The Phillips family, who we’ll get to know better in future Green Chix blog posts, purchased a home designated LEED Platinum by the USGBC (United States Green Building Council) just a few years ago. Living in a green home on an urban retrofit site in Ann Arbor has changed their lives! In this video, Linda and Scott share some of the ways that ‘living local’ has dramatically changed their lifestyle. Their home will be open to the public during next month's Mission Zero Fest in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Next week we’ll take a closer look at the Phillip’s home in Ann Arbor and learn more about how they live green and you can too!
Posted: 5/3/2012 10:29:16 PM by
Heather Wallace | with 1 comments