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Green Building Interview with Wendy Brawer of GreenMap.org
A few years ago I had the opportunity to interview Wendy Brawer, the founding direct of GreenMap.org. This is a system that encourages the mapping of all green living, nature and cultural resources worldwide. It’s a cool project that allows people to get a really great overview of what’s going on in green. I interviewed Brawer about this work for some research I was doing into alternative home building. Here you’ll find the fruits of that interview:
Q: What sparked your interest in alternative home building?
A: Working in sustainable design since 1990 made me interested.
Q: Explain your work with GreenMap and how it relates to green building.
A: GreenMap in a nutshell: “Energizing communities worldwide to chart a sustainable future, Green Map System empowers a diverse global movement highlighting local natural, social and cultural resources in cities, villages and neighborhoods in over 50 countries. Through the development of local sustainability networks, we expand the demand for healthy, green choices with our adaptable mapmaking resources and universal icons, multi-lingual websites, workshops and regional hubs. Our own local Green Apple Map project benefits New York City and acts as a proving ground for new concepts and methods. To date, over 325 Green Maps have been published online and on paper, and hundreds more created in workshops and classrooms. Working collaboratively since 1995, the Green Map movement brings people of all ages together to discover, share and care for their communities.
So really, my interest is in community building! Green Maps have included green buildings since inception. An interesting example is the Powerful Green Map of NYC, download at GreenAppleMap.org/page/power – it’s all about energy and had lots of building resources.
Q: What is your role at GreenMap?
As founding director, it’s very rewarding to help support the greening of 430 diverse communities, and this is a number that grows each week! I created the original Green Map in 1992. I initiated and have led the global movement since 1995. I was trying to develop a green product when I conceived of using the map as a universally understandable vehicle for social change. I was co-teaching Design for the Environment at Cooper Union at the time, and transitioning from being a sculptor to becoming a designer. I have found that much of my best work is collaborative and I love sharing what I know to expedite progress toward sustainability. You can see my own work at EcoCultural.info.
Q: What steps have you taken in your professional and/or personal life that are related to alternative home building?
A: We chose a tiny home that is very efficient. It’s in a 100 year old building but has bamboo and reused slate floors, reused granite countertops, and other simple living features.
Green Map System’s NYC global HQ has reused furniture too; a worm bin, water filter, lots of plants; we restored the oak floors and rely on natural light as much as possible. My husband, Ray Sage, ‘separated’ all the banks of lighting so we can spotlight just the area where illumination is needed, and it’s all dimmable (he is an electrician). He helped round up and install the reused & scrap building elements at the right moment, too. He works all over Manhattan by bike, saving tons of energy, time and money that would be spent on driving to jobsites.
Q: How do you go about meeting or networking with other people interested in alternative home building?
A: I’m a member of NESEA – their annual Building Energy conference (and online directory) is terrific. I take part in many sustainability networks in NYC, many of which are on the Powerful Green Map described above. It’s great to see the rich array of new products, methods and practitioners available. And I’ve been to a natural building hands-on weekend and hope someday to use some of these methods in a future home or workspace.
Q: Where do you get new information about alternative home building? (websites, publications, etc.)
A: Locally published Green Maps are a great resource for this. Many cities have editions you can find at GreenMap.org. I also like the coopamerica.org Green Pages, Treehugger.com, greenbuilding.com and many others.
And I like http://greenhomesforsale.com/ and fabprefab, some cool ideas for our future homes.
Q: What changes have you seen in green building since you first got involved in it?
A: It’s getting better by leaps and bounds each day. And finally, people are recognizing that small is beautiful, and the many benefits of minimizing their impact for the long term.
Q: What other companies or individuals do you look towards as being leaders in this field?
Many are on our maps! Here’s one - The City of NYC has some useful resources for larger scale building projects here - http://www.nyc.gov/html/ddc/html/ddcgreen/
Thoughts on alternative home building
the sentence … “Alternative home building is important because …”
usually, the owners are more involved in the choices and understand the impacts of each one.
- Do you feel that alternative home building is cost-efficient? Yes, especially over the longterm.
- What is the biggest benefit of alternative home building? Self sufficiency
- 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? Build it close to where you work and minimize your commute time.