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”

Whatcha think?