Friday, August 21, 2009

Testing Sustainable Housing

I recently watched a documentary entitled "Garbage Warrior" and became very fascinated (and a bit enraged) at the way our government is processing new ideas about not only sustainable buildings, but new ideas in general. The documentary highlights the struggle that Architect Micheal Reynolds encounters with the US government in trying to create a sustainable housing testing site in New Mexico using his "Earthship Biotecture" technique. He argues that since we have testing grounds for such things as cars, jet engines and even bombs, why should testing sites for housing be out of the question? The documentary also follows Reynolds to an Island off the coast of India that was devastated by the Tsunami, where Reynolds creates a sustainable hut that gathers water for the surrounding village. However, when Hurricane Katrina hits home in the US, the government is firm in keeping Reynolds out of the picture, and not letting him build his "Earthships" for the disaster victims.

What I got out of this documentary is that the US government is very slow to act or listen to problems pertaining to the environment, global warming, etc. Video shots of representatives and state legislators sleeping in meetings and taking 30 minutes to take roll really got me thinking about where my tax dollars are going; not to anything I particularily want it to go towards. For example, I personally think "Cash for Clunkers" is a flop, and we could have made it a much better program by upping the standards of the new car you are to purchase, but I didn't get a vote on it, and my tax dollars are being thrust into something I never had a say in.

It's a sad world when people who NEED sustainable housing, people who live in slums and don't have electricity or running water and live in the United States, can not freely build their own home. Codes and laws command and demand what we live in. Michael Reynolds' "Earthships" did not meet county and state codes, so the government took his license away. These sustainable houses that Reynolds was building were completely sufficient and completely safe, but did not meet outdated codes. Next thing you know, I'm going to need county approval before building a treehouse in my backyard that is "up to code!" To deny hurricane victims who have nothing left, no housing, no furniture, no food or water, the oppurtunity to live in a sustainable house with clean water, self-sustaining tempatures and sewage, and instead putting them in FEMA trailors, makes me a tad bit ashamed of the current state of our country.

"Garbage Warrior" was a great inspirational documentary that made me think really hard about why I want to be an architect. I don't want to just build structures, I want to change them. I enjoy the thought of the challenges that lie ahead for me, and I even HOPE that one day I will have the oppurtunity to challenge our government into thinking outside of the tiny box they sit in.