As an architect interested from day one in designing homes and commercial buildings that respond to the earth and the sun, I am thrilled that the “green” movement is becoming mainstream. There is so much we can do as architects, builders and consumers to ensure that recycled products are used, that less energy is expended to make a product or to use local products that don’t take much energy to ship here. Waste is a huge problem in this world. The amount of waste when building or renovating a house can add up quickly. When we built our house in the mountains, we did not use a dumpster, we made piles. We reused what wood we could, have been burning all the scrap wood in our stove, took the metal and steel down to a scrapyard for recycling, took many loads of cardboard to the recycling center, and there was still a huge amount of waste. I figure it’s like karma, what goes around, comes around. If you use all that you can as best as you can, you will always have plenty. Honoring the earth in multiple ways, honors yourself and your community.
I had always wanted to implement passive solar, so we oriented the building spread out east-west on a wonderful south-facing slope, dug (and blasted rock away) the lower level into the ground on the north for some nice earth-sheltering, used concrete slabs on each floor for the solar heat storage, and built around this wonderful rock in our entry to have it inside the house, to connect with nature at all times. We picked low-flow dual-flush toilets and put aerators on every faucet for low water use. Now we need to get a timer in the showers for the kids! We picked cabinets, paint and water-based concrete stain with low VOC ‘s, no formaldehyde, and high recycled content, recycled glass countertops, local materials when we could, and remnants as well. We picked an energy-star high-efficiency boiler for our radiant heat, and energy-star appliances. Our dishwasher is also so quiet you can’t even tell it’s running. We made choices with integrity, minimizing our energy footprint and our impact on the earth, treading as lightly as we could.
Such fun it is to pick consciously, with awareness on the impact on the earth and the community, the products to fit in the integrated design. The house sits down from the top of the highest point a little. This is a basic and sound feng shui practice that is logical for protection from the harsh north winds. We protected the entry, and put small amounts of glass on the north, protecting overhangs on the large expanses of glass on the south, and limited amounts on the west to minimize late afternoon heat gain in the summer. Responding to the site and the climate, the sun, is like responding to the energy around you, in your daily life. Use what works, let the rest go.
We intended to build something lasting, using durable products, with a layout that works well, is beautiful and responds to the site. Views near and far were also a priority to bring the outside in and connect with our beautiful mountains. Using your energy wisely, love your choices, and be in the flow. Quality counts. Be with your surroundings, connect with and appreciate them.
Your home or office is your sanctuary, I encourage you to make it an extension of you, supportive, and nurturing. In doing any new or remodeling work, choose wisely, with the architect, with your intentions, with the design and with the materials and methods used. You can consciously have a positive, significant impact on the earth by choosing responsibly, just as you can practice with your beautiful and creative thoughts, adding beauty and joy to your surroundings in multiple ways. Create what you want, help the earth, and inspire others!

Author's Bio: 

Eileen Moore Koenigsberg, LEED AP, is a sustainable architect with Moore Koenigsberg Architecture, Inc. specializing in residential and small commercial visionary design. You can visit their website at and see images of their new sustainable passive solar contemporary house. She is also the author of Vaporizing Clouds: Exploring Mind, Body & Spirit, and an Access Consciousness™ Certified Facilitator, energy healer, speaker and yoga instructor.