Book Reviews

November 04, 2007
November/December 2007
A version of this article appears in the November/December 2007 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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Karlenzig, Warren. How Green Is Your City? Gabriola Island, B.C.:  New Society Publishers, 2007. 224 pp., paper, $22.95.

Whether you’re interested in moving to a new, more sustainable city, or in finding out how your city stacks up in terms of energy policy and sustainability, How Green Is Your City?  is a great resource.

This book examines the outcome of a sustainability study of the 50 largest U.S. cities, compiled by SustainLane. The 2006 SustainLane U.S. Cities Rankings employed 15 standards to measure each city’s performance and ranked them overall according to the cumulative results. Among those standards are public transit use, air and tap water quality, planning/land use, city innovation, affordability, and land management.

Portland, Oregon, comes out on top in the rankings, boasting a high quality of life and commitment to green building, local food, alternative fuels, and renewable energy. Other top cities include Chicago, Illinois, and Oakland, California. And while your city or burgh may not be on this list, the book is helpful for anyone interested in finding ways to make his or her hometown a more sustainable place to set down roots.

Easton, David. The Rammed Earth House. White River Junction, Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2007. 274 pp., paper, $40.00.

Rammed earth construction, which uses only earth, water, and a little cement for materials, is an ancient building method that has great advantages in terms of durability and energy efficiency. In The Rammed Earth House, David Easton documents the sustainability and beauty of this natural building method.

The revised edition of the book is improved with all-color photographs by Cynthia Wright. While it would benefit from the use of more engineering-specific sketches, it is still a very reader-friendly book, and the author’s enthusiasm for his subject is infectious.

Wilson, Alex. Your Green Home. Gabriola Island, B.C.:  New Society Publishers, 2006. 256 pp., paper, $17.95.

Written for readers who are planning to buy or build a new home, Your Green Home explains how to strengthen the overall environmental performance of that home. Answering big-picture questions, Your Green Home covers issues such as the location of the home, and the relationship between that home, its location, and the community; site design; construction systems; building design to optimize energy performance; renewable energy systems; indoor environmental quality; water efficiency; and material selection. The author of this valuable resource is the founder of BuildingGreen and the executive editor of Environmental Building News.

Carmody, John, et al.  Residential Windows: A Guide to New Technologies and Energy Performance. 3rd ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2007. 264 pp., paper, $35.00.

The third edition of Residential Windows: A Guide to New Technologies and Energy Performance provides readers with updated and expanded information on window properties and technologies, and is illustrated with hundreds of photographs. New sections cover such key topics as window installation, energy efficiency, and building codes. All of the energy performance data in this latest edition have been revised, based on the latest simulation techniques and industry-accepted assumptions. Residential Windows provides an overview of new window products for consumers, designers, and builders; as well as regulators; standards developers; utilities; and the researchers, manufacturers, and suppliers in the window industry itself.

Bingham, Wayne J., and, Colleen F. Smith. Strawbale Home Plans. Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith, 2007. 192
pp., paper,  $24.95

While the energy efficiency, insulative qualities, and organic nature of strawbale appeal to some homeowners, the work-intensive nature of the material sometimes deters builders. Now homeowners and designers looking for coffee table inspiration can delve into this new book on strawbuilding. Strawbale Home Plans features 31 completed projects—everything from single-level country homes, to cottages and studios, to community buildings.  What this book is not, however, is a how-to manual. It’s packed with excellent photographs and floor plans, along with stories from the people who built each of the homes featured in the book. Essentially, this is a coffee table book for people who love looking at buildings.
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