At many outdoor leadership schools, including one where I took a month long course, they teach something called “The Rule of 3s.” The Rule of 3s, simply put, is a way of understanding the relative importance of what human beings need to survive at the most basic level. The rule is basically this:
You can survive for:
- 3 minutes without air
- 3 hours without shelter
- 3 days without water
- 3 weeks without food
Why bring this up in a blog purportedly about the importance and meaning of smart and sustainable building? Because, if the rule of threes is correct, shelter is our most basic human need second only to air. In the right (or wrong) conditions, it is more fundamental than even food or water. Shelter, buildings in other words, is something that involves every one of us. Seeing to it that the buildings, homes, workplaces, and third-places where we all live are built and remodeled thoughtfully, wisely, and beautifully is worthy and meaningful work. It is worth all the horse-power, brain-power, spending-power, and [wo]man-hours we can muster.
Combine this with the fact that the ecological difficulties we are currently facing are arguably the greatest challenges humankind is facing. Every living system that we know how to measure, systems that we are a part of and dependent upon for our own survival and flourishing, is in decline. Although gas guzzling cars, refineries, nuclear plants, etc. get most of the bad press in relation to the environment, the truth is that our current building and construction practices are far larger contributors to environmental degradation than the popular culprits. Buildings in the United States account for:
- 36 percent of total energy use and 65 percent of electricity consumption
- 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions
- 30 percent of raw materials use
- 30 percent of waste output
- 12 percent of potable water consumption
It is also no secret that we are living through very difficult economic times. The truth is that most people can’t afford to be wasteful with their money. However, most contemporary building practices produce buildings that are very wasteful of energy, water, and resources. This is not only bad of the environment; it is bad for your wallet.
If this all sounds like depressing news, well take heart! These are exactly the reasons that TreeHouse is so excited about smart building. Where else do you get to work creatively at the intersection of a basic human need and a pressing human challenge? Whatever difficulties or troubles we face, TreeHouse believes that they do not have the final word and that there will always be room for the world to be surprised by hope. Just when disorder, despair, or ruin seem to win the day, hope can ever speak to us a word of order, healing, joy, and restoration that makes it possible for us to imagine a better world….and imagination is the seed of the possible.
And here is what we imagine at TreeHouse: a way of building that is good for you, good for the planet, and good for your wallet. That’s what we mean by smart building. We still have a long journey ahead of us, but it is a journey worth making. Why smart building? As we say at TreeHouse, “People Matter. Communities Matter. Nature Matters. Excellence Matters. Dreams Matter.” If you live in or use a building, you have a part to play. Come join us on the journey.
JASON D BALLARD
Co-Founder / VP Sustainability & Education