The first time I saw Brent Francese, he was playing drums behind a clear acrylic drum screen and sound shielding system. I would have another opportunity to view his work when I saw a poster he designed for a benefit concert, which was prominently displayed across opposing, overhead screens. Curious about his background, I discovered he is also an accomplished architect.
This past week, I seized the opportunity to get to know Brent better. We spoke briefly in the hallway about the current trend of “Go Green” in building, both residential and commercial. I explained that although I was very upbeat at the possibilities, and reflected on a few of my favorites, I questioned the ability of this taking hold without some level of cost advantage. Everything I have looked into to this point seems to not have a payback, other than the positive impact from treating our environment with care and respect.
What began as a quizzical conversation (from me), soon developed into a high level of curiosity and interest in a new way of thinking. Brent talked about more than just the product side of this movement; he introduced the notion of “…creating low carbon, smart living environments for everyone.”
Brent described how the architectural industry is a driving force in green building, much of which is in the product side. This occurs most through the products specified by the architect, and the incorporation of “greener” design concepts. Some of the more prominent areas are “plywood sheets, countertops, sinks, toilets, rain catchment, wind, (etc.)”. This in turn is being driven by consumer demand, i.e., the public at large is asking for it.
Here is where I think Brent, and his collaborating partner, Tony Lineberry, has ventured into new space – pardon the pun – called “Clean Living”. They define it as, “Clean Living is about creating residential homes with a smart, small and sustainable mindset. Simply, our mission is create homes that will not only help our environment, but give back to it.”
They are putting it into practice with “a simple house set on a 4' module which is the basic dimension of a piece of plywood (4'x8') and has a basic set dimension of conventional lumber to reduce waste.” This level of greener living, or Clean Living as they call it, makes for “ a very small footprint which will keep it low impact on the earth.”
What Brent showed me was that I was focused on the ‘big’ systems (solar, wind, water, etc.); although they incorporate those in their design, they begin with the notion that “basic architecture can start off with a base of being green just by how it’s sited on the land”, what Brent referred to as “passive”. The “active” side, which had been my primary interest, can include a package of products, treatment (finishes, paints, plaster, etc.), and other building materials or techniques.
I still believe that we will need to reach some level of cost savings, or at least a reasonable break-even, before this takes on greater momentum. But for now, I have a new idea of how Clean Living can help mitigate some of the cost obstacles presented by the ‘big systems’ that I have considered in the past.
More on Clean Living found here.