Bright-Minded Home September



by Melissa Coleman

Welcome to the Bright-Minded Home column, where I’d like to recycle the trendy notion of the “green home” into the idea of a smart house, and talk about the ways architects, builders, and you and me are making our homes healthier and more efficient for the future.

The “bright” in the name comes from Alex Steffen’s concept of “bright green” environmentalism, defined as the exploration of social innovation and new technologies to reduce human impact on the planet. Sustainability, Steffen suggests, needs to be more useful and deeply satisfying in order to change our habits. That’s the goal here, too. I’m looking for the simple ways we can make the roof over our heads—whatever size or style it is—something of a fortress against the grand uncertainties of the world.

I’m a believer in the little things that make a difference. Greenwashing aside, when building or retrofitting a home, we can all make smart choices that feel right to us. They can be anything from the use of antiques, reclaimed wood, recycled building materials, and local stonework to super insulation, low-impact landscaping, Energy Star appliances, ventilation, wood pellet stoves, low-flow toilets, and heat pumps. Some even take it to the next level with solar electricity and hot water, geothermal and wind power, a blower door test and deep energy retrofit, and LEED or passive home features such as passive solar siting and exterior sun shading, to name but a few options.

In addition to this column, each month I’ll be highlighting the ways builders, designers, and homeowners have made their homes “smarter.” Look for the Bright Ideas boxes that accompany the feature stories. (In this issue, see pages 50, 62, and 70.)

Although I live in a LEED home, I’m not claiming to be the expert here; rather I’m looking to you and the builders, designers, and visionaries to inspire me with the realm of the possible. I welcome your questions and comments on my blog,, and invite you to email me at [email protected] to share your own projects and bright ideas, big or small. You just might see them show up here.

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