On a recent visit to New Orleans I witnessed many green building projects that were embracing the traditional Spanish and French styles of city such as Creole cottages and "shotgun" homes. A city like New Orleans strives to preserve it's architectural heritage and even when it comes to modernization of building components or sustainable upgrades, the builders, designers, and architects still manage to protect architectural aesthetics and historical design significance. Witnessing this evolution of building and design really gave me a lot to think about with regards to Sacramento and those who have a stigma against green building and design.
Green building and sustainable design does not have to consist of metal, concrete, and wood slathered interiors and exteriors. Sacramento architecture is known for it's wonderful American Craftsman style and Spanish Revival homes, and we could easily use some of the design features of these architectural styles in new green homes or green remodels... some features of these older homes were "green" before "green" existed!
Take Spanish Revival and its Mediterranean cousin: passive solar and excellent thermal design qualities, use of courtyard design for maximum air circulation... constructed using thicker, plaster covered walls, use of tile for longevity and wear, and the list really does go on. American Craftsman architecture gives us wonderful large eaves and overhangs for shading, excellent use of interior space with the incorporation of built-ins, deep set window casings for natural shading, beautiful porches to protect from the elements, and the list also goes on too.
I believe the best route for going green is to first develop an architectural style and then find a way to work in green materials and products, reclaimed and recycled materials, and sustainable principals so that you don't let the materials dictate the outcome. You can get all the LEED points in the world, but if you're not truly comfortable in your home or with your home's aesthetics you are only asking for trouble down the road with regards to the sustainability of your home.
Check out these links to see what's happening in New Orleans:
The Green Project
Make It Right