As part of my podcast project, I spoke with Terry Phalen. Terry is very much engaged with the environmental movement and works as an architect in Seattle. Doing her part for the planet includes her promoting green building in Seattle, this can be done in various capacities. One avenue for greener building is instead of building on land that has not yet been developed, to build on already developed lots. Another way that she mentioned is by creating ‘net-zero impact housing’. These structures are good for the environment as they take care of nearly every facet of living on site. This includes responsible water run-off, sewage treatment, and energy from solar panels as is possible. Currently, these homes are only commonly seen in Alaska, as on-site sewage is really the only option due to weather conditions. In the future, especially in Seattle, we can expect to see more of this kind of housing as it becomes more mainstream and affordable.
I found Terry through my dad as they work together frequently. From her, I learned that ‘the best house for the environment is no house’. I think that this is a good perspective and thing to understand about the planet as ideally the planet does best just leave alone, and simply being here is a negative impact. Given that we are not welcome guests on this planet, there are a great deal of things that we can do to offset our negative impacts on the planet such as not building on more land than we have to, using renewable resources in our homes, and minimizing what we take from the grid such as sewage, garbage, and energy.
Our conversation was relatively brief, and she was not overly enthusiastic to talk on the subject, but the fact that people like that are integrated into the building industry and working to make the industry and planet a more environmentally conscious place is a good sign. She seemed discouraged about the current system and spoke fancifully about what would have to be done to build sustainably, so from that perspective, I was not overly confident big builders are going to sacrifice profits in an attempt to save the wales.
Being engaged in a battle where success is prolonging a worldwide catastrophe event and losing by less is considered a victory, frustration is probably a common symptom. In the end, I feel like there are not many people cut out for this genre of battle and even less of those are people in power and pushing the industry towards a more sustainable future. But those who are, are doing an admirable job, even if they are working under the prefix their efforts are borderline futile.