Saturday, May 16, 2009

Living green, moving green

Bike to Work Day got me thinking green! Congratulations to my partner, Jeff, who, for the third year on this occasion, rode his bike to work from near UT all the way to Round Rock! Way to roll!

I worked at home on Bike to Work Day, but used my bicycle to do errands. The day's theme put me in mind of the green home we stayed in when we were in Houston last weekend to ride our bikes along with the Peacemobile in the Art Car Parade.

Claire Loe, one of our local CodePinkers who now is back in Houston working on her PhD in public health, arranged for all of us bicyclists to stay at the home of her parents, Lee and Hardy Loe, who are longtime Houston peace activists. Hardy is a retired medical doctor and professor of public health, and Lee produced the excellent journal, "Iraq Notebook," and co-edits the Houston Peace News.

Two days before Christmas in 2005, the Loes' home in Houston where they'd lived since 1967 suffered an accidental fire that totalled the residence. Fortunately, the Loes were away visiting family and no one was injured. When they recovered from the shock of losing their home, Hardy and Lee made a decision to rebuild on the same spot, and to rebuild green.
Hardy said that when they began doing research for their project, green builders in Houston were few, especially compared with Austin. An article in Sunday's AAS reports that almost a quarter of new homes built here are green homes -- a record to be proud of. One would think that a city of Houston's size and resources also would be a leader in green building, but apparently not so -- at least not yet.

Lee and Hardy rented an apartment a few blocks from their home site and oversaw all phases of the construction with keen interest. Lee showed me an album of photos documenting the building stages, and I was especially intrigued with the walls, which are pre-fabricated panels of agriboard filled with pressed rice and wheat straw. The panels went up quickly and with quite a different process than wood-frame construction. There were some challenges along the way, of course -- such as installing plumbing and wiring in concert with the new wall technology.
The roof, metal panels elevated above a flat surface beneath, is eye-catchingly beautiful and is designed to keep the house cooler in summer. The Loes also had two metal cisterns installed, one on either side of the house, to water their new plantings.

The house includes some recycled materials, notably its lovely maple flooring retrieved from an old gymnasium. The Loes also were careful to choose eco-friendly wall paint. Lee and Hardy just moved into their new house a couple of months ago, and I noticed how cleanly chemical-free it seemed compared to most new buildings.

The Loes are warmly hospitable people who like having guests, and the open design of the interior space reflects their sociable natures. Their peach-colored green "peace house," as Lee calls it, is still unusual enough to have elicited an article in the Houston Chronicle in February. Folks come by to take a look, so they've posted a sign out front with contact info for themselves and the architect and builder they enjoyed working with so much.

Hardy and Lee remind me a lot of my own parents -- their can-do attitude, hospitality, creativity, intellect, activism, and their generosity as octogenarians. Lee and Hardy said they wanted to use their insurance funds to create a healthy living space for future generations, and not only have they done so, their green home is also a useful model for greening the city of Houston.

Living green and making peace dovetail in all kinds of ways. Thank you, Hardy and Lee!
photo by makingpeace

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