Michael Green – Notes on Sustainable Housing


* Interview on Vancouver is Awesome
* MGB Architecture Firm
* Observations: drives vintage Land Rover; 2 kids; casually mentioned riding bike across Japan

Caption: Michael Green is the founding principal of McFarlane Green Biggar
Architecture + Design in Vancouver. (Image: via Vancouver is Awesome)

Set-up: What 3 things do all humans need? Food, water, shelter. As an architect, i don’t talk about “shelter” because most in developed world don’t have to worry about “shelter” have luxury of choice.

Thought: (paraphrased) When working on design process, am responsible to client, environment, and community – but there are 2 “unclimbed mountains”

1) world housing
2) climate change

World Housing

Reality: 3 billion will need new affordable housing in next 20 years – 100,000,000 effectively homeless worldwide. Means 100,000 new houses per day.

Note: Modular, containers, rammed earth, are great ideas but… these are rural or suburban solutions, but need solution for 50% which live in urban (mostly in developing world) 70% of 2050.

Climate Change

Reality: Building causes lots of waste, water, energy, carbon, …and energy solutions are diverse around the globe

Note: Need regional solutions, however cities are the same/simliar around the world.

Note: Concrete – heavy and dirty (5-8% of carbon footprint) and world make 3 tonnes per person per year – and Steel (one of most enery intensive materials to produce) are two main materials for urban construction


Needs: 1) Reduce carbon emission & 2) Remove carbon from system

Idea: Wood does both… {author note: hmmm i’m listening} one cubic meter stores 1 tonne of carbon… But… deforestation is a problem… So wood must come from sustainably-produced forests and we need to change the way we work with wood (read: innovate). So, Innovation and Ambition FTW – “It’s in our nature to build things tall and big, we (architects) need to build them better.”

Example: In Vancouver, wood building limit was only 4 stories tall – now can build to 6 storeys. In London, up to 9 stories. In Japan, visited a 19 storey tall wood building built 1400 years ago.

Anecdotes: What if Egypt only allowed stone building a certain height or Paris only allowed short wrought iron buildings? In Russia, a guy build a giant ramshackle wood building (world’s tallest-ish). Norway and Austria are building big in wood ushering in a new era of “building race” – a competition to problem-solve. And Canada should be part of this. We know these things. But we’re not doing fast enough and not investing in these things.

Big Problems = Big Opportunities

“The nation who chases these problems are the ones who’ll experience the economic reward.”

The way the kids answer, “Food, Water and Love” Or, “Love, laughter, sushi”