Walking the Walk and Building the Buildings

MarilynWhile I struggle to live one green life, this summer I met Marilyn Farmer who designs greener lives for the masses plus helps other architects do the same.

Take a look at this space inside her home in San Luis Obispo, CA. Is that curved ceiling and the pop out skylight cool or what? It makes a very small space delightful.

Claiborn_2Marilyn is the owner of Habitat Designs. She started designing sustainable homes and professional buildings about 20 years ago and won an award for the straw bale construction of Claiborne and Churchill Vintners. That was the main reason I stopped by. I liked the organic concept of a straw bale home and wanted to touch the construction first hand. The winery, had two-foot thick walls and the feel of Tuscany during slower paced times. I drove up at the end of a toasty afternoon, but inside it was a cool 70 degrees without the use of AC. Farmer_2What's not to love, old world charm and a low energy bill as well. I hear that it would do well in wetter climates such as Michigan, too.

The second reason for the visit was to learn more about her other passion, Green Building Pages. It's a comprehensive resource for benchmarking sustainable building materials and companies. As the market has been improving, Marilyn's system raises the bar for what is the best in any area by looking at how the product affects the triple bottom line of the environment, economics and social responsibility. Lately she's added the SMaRT sustainable product certification which adds third party audits and a full Life Cycle Assessment over 12 environmental impacts.

At first it was just an extended database for her own use while creating sustainable homes. Then she thought maybe other architects could use the information as well and went public eight years ago.

Because it was her resource and her rules, one of the areas she asks about is how many women a company has in management. She explained that when she was starting out, being taken seriously as an architect was difficult. It was important to her to work with companies who respected women enough to have them in the upper management positions.

Because Green Building Pages is so comprehensive, it has been selected by by the LA Community College District as a procurement resource for green school buildings. LACCD is set to build 44 LEED Certified Platinum buildings over the next few years. To be certified at that level each building must meet tough requirements for air, light, water and energy efficiency and that means choosing the right materials first.

If you're in the market to build a new home or just need retrofit your current space, take a tour through Green Building Pages and be ready to become own climate change agent.

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