ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Green Building Interview with Alan Abrams of Abrams Design Build

Updated on November 3, 2012
Learn all about why this designer is interested in green building.
Learn all about why this designer is interested in green building. | Source

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to interview Alan Abrams, CEO and lead designer of Abrams Design Build, a design firm that emphasizes sustainable building practices. If alternative home building and green design are topics that interest you then the following interview may be intriguing for you:

Q: What sparked your interest in alternative home building?

A: The roots go back to my days in New Mexico, during the 70’s. I bought a piece of land on the bank of the Rio Grande. By lantern light in the tent I sketched the plan for my first house on the flyleaf of Ken Kern’s “The Owner Built Home.” The house was a tiny, free-form adobe home that I built almost entirely by myself.

Q: What aspect of alternative home building are you involved in? What trends in the field interest you most (for example, is your passion for recycled materials or for earth-based building)?

A: I specialize in residential remodeling and home building. I am the lead designer on all projects. My design philosophy is based on responding to nature - sunlight, breezes, rain and snow. The geometry of the plans often derives from passive solar principles, which sometimes results in non-orthogonal footprints, and large south facing windows with tuned overhangs. I emphasize the use of natural materials, and man-made materials used in a direct manner. I incorporate best practices for energy efficiency, based on manuals such as EEBA, as well as personal experience. I also incorporate methods for water management, both within the home (like dual flush toilets, foot controls for the kitchen sink and meticulous rainscreen detailing) and outside the home (such as stormwater management methods like green roofs, porous pavement, and rain gardens.)

Q: What steps have you taken in your professional and/or personal life that are related to alternative home building?

A: Please see my website for a case study of my home.

I also devote at least a quarter of my time to promoting green building and educating the public. For example, I was part of a team of instructors at the EnviroCenter, in Jessup MD; the program was on green remodeling. I’ve made numerous presentations on green building to local communities and civic organizations.

I’ve worked on numerous committees at the local and national level, promoting green building and working on policy. In 2003, I conceived of ramrodding a resolution in support of green building adopted by AIBD. I also recently participated on the site subcommittee of a joint of ANSI and GBI, to develop a national standard for green building. I’m also training my staff; several members are now participating in the NARI green building training program.

Q: How do you go about meeting or networking with other people interested in alternative home building?

A: In addition to the groups mentioned above, one of the most valuable and stimulating resources is the green building listserve—an international place to chat with architects, engineers, builders, and building owners on every imaginable subject. See:

Q: Where do you get new information about alternative home building? (websites, publications, etc.)

A: Among other publications, I subscribe to Environmental Building News.

Q: What other companies or individuals do you look towards as being leaders in this field?

A: Bill Hutchins, AIA, Stan Serson, RA of the Envirocenter.

Q: What changes have you seen in the field since getting started in it?

A: It’s no longer a hard sell; some clients are actually pushing me farther toward sustainability. I don’t have to argue so hard with staff and subs; vendors are now coming to me with better products. It’s quite a relief!

Q: Do you feel that alternative home building is cost-efficient?

A: People ask me, “apples to apples, how much more is green going to cost me?” I teach that when we understand the principles of green building, and adopt a mindset of sustainability, we no longer are comparing apples to apples; we’re developing a fruit salad. We reprioritize, and maybe in the end come up with a project that is less costly than what we would have created using more conventional assumption.

Q: How do you feel that alternatively built homes compare in performance with other homes (meaning are the foundations, the longevity of the home, the comfort of the home comparable and how so or how not?)

A: A great part of green building involves focus on durability, particularly with regard to water and water vapor management. A green home should last far longer, and require less maintenance, than a conventional home.

Q: What are the biggest benefits of alternative home building?

Aside from energy efficiency, and a healthy indoor environment, what I find is that as we respond directly to nature, and use natural materials, natural elements, like the wind and sun, we create profoundly beautiful space, very sensual, even spiritual space. That to me is sufficient reason in itself, to build green.

Q: What warnings or advice can you offer to individuals who are interested in buying or building an alternative home but who are just getting started in the process?

Learn the principles up front, and incorporate them into your design organically. For any substantial project, create a team approach at the earliest stage of design, including at a minimum, the building designer, landscape designer, builder, mechanical sub, and energy specialist. Green is not something you can add after the design is substantially complete.

Abrams Talk


Submit a Comment

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 

    8 years ago from London, UK

    Very informative and inspiring hub.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)