Evaluating grassroots sustainable housing initiatives

Having reviewed the policy and research contexts of sustainable housing, attention now turns to practice. This section moves on from general discussions of sustainable housing to examine a series of practical initiatives in more depth. It draws on fieldwork (site visits and interviews) conducted in 2004 with grassroots pioneers of two different models of sustainable housing in the USA. Quotations are from personal interviews, unless otherwise referenced. These two initiatives can be considered emblematic actors in the sustainable housing movement. The intention in studying practice in the USA is to learn from pioneers whose ideas were developing ahead of UK experience (due to a range of cultural, regulatory and climatic factors which are discussed later on), and whose ideas were beginning to spread to the UK, to assess potential future opportunities and threats in the UK context. These initiatives all represent innovations for sustainable consumption that move beyond the technical, to examine the need for fundamental changes in values and behaviour, in developing eco-housing. The analysis concentrates as much on the individuals behind each movement as on the technical aspects of their building approaches, and uses the empirical, personal and contextual data obtained to make conjectures about the importance of social and cultural contexts in forming, developing and extending from green housing niches. Indeed, they are each shown to be deeply embedded in their social and cultural contexts, and the practical demonstrations they have achieved are tied intimately into the specific circumstances and lives of their advocates. In examining the impacts of these initiatives, we return to the five New Economics criteria of sustainable consumption developed in Chapter 3, namely the potential for localisation, reducing ecological footprints, communitybuilding, collective action and building new infrastructures of housing provision, and the findings are summarised in Table 6.1.

Figure 6.3 Athena and Bill Steen (and son), Canelo Project, Arizona, USA

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