Mother Earth Living

The Good Life

All things Mother Earth Living

Add to My MSN

How to Green a McMansion? Tear It Down and Build Two Homes In Its Place(2)

4/8/2011 12:00:00 AM


Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnailTear down one highly unsustainable McMansion and build two small green, handcrafted homes in its place? I like this idea a lot.

Bothered by Australia’s homogenous housing landscape, which is dominated by flimsy brick veneer and terracotta tile-roofed houses in every climate from the cold highlands area to the tropical north (much likein the Unted States), artist Matthew Gallois and a team of architects and experts have launched the Reincarnated McMansion Project to demonstrate alternatives to unsustainable housing models and draw attention to sustainability in existing housing. The Reincarnated McMansion Project wants to audit and dismantle “poorly built, mechanically cooled and heated” suburban homes, then use the materials to rebuild two green houses in their place.

“In our discussions with developers, urban planners, architects and home owners, the question of what to do with Australia’s vast car dependant suburbs, built during a short period of cheap energy and cheap raw materials (second half of the 20 century), has been asked time and again,” the project’s website states.

The Reincarnated McMansion project’s approach to suburban redevelopment discourages the practice of knocking down existing housing, down-cycling some materials and sending the majority to landfill, then rebuilding with all new materials. After quantifying the total embodied energy of an existing McMansion as well as the embodied energy of the rebuilt houses, the team will create a housing model that encourages sustainable lifestyle choices through passive environmental strategies.

“To be reborn as a better version of oneself–the project encapsulates a powerful symbolic metaphor,” its founders state. “The project thus seeks to transcend its quantitative, aesthetic and social goals, emphasizing a spiritual reading of the processes as an architectural, environmental and cultural cleansing.”

“The term ‘McMansion’ is clearly intended as a pejorative label, and there is much to be critical of here.,” says architecture critic Naomi Stead, a project partner. “Profligate in their use of material and energy not only in construction but over the whole life of the building, these dwellings are generally over-sized, poorly sited and oriented, lacking quality in materiality and space, and usually also located in outer-suburban situations so lacking in population density and basic services that they lock their owners in eternal servitude to the car.”

Knocking down big, poorly built houses and building smaller, more efficient homes offers homeowners many benefits, according to Reincarnated McMansion:

• Potential revenue income from the second dwelling.

• Reduce building footprints and internal volume by 40 percent to 70 percent per dwelling, increasing available usable land for outdoor living and garden space.

• Introduce natural ventilation strategies, passive winter solar gain, solar hot water and solar power, rainwater storage and grey water bio filtration.

• Increase building’s life cycle

• Reduce site’s carbon footprint, resulting in electricity and gas bill savings.

The team is currently seeking homeowners in Australia to participate in the project. I wish we could convince them to do a little recruiting over here.


Can this home be greened? Perhaps...if it were two homes.

Related Content

Location Matters as Much as Materials When Building a Green Home

Location near public transportation and walkability are as important as green materials and design i...

5 Ways to Stay Active in the Garden This Winter

Just because it's freezing outside doesn't mean you can't enjoy your garden. Complete these simply a...

Community Farms: The Ultimate Suburban Upgrade

A 30-acre organic and biodynamic farm is the beating heart of the thriving 1,000-acre Serenbe commun...

Guidelines for Guerrilla Gardening

Guerilla gardening can be a useful way to save space around the homestead while connecting with your...

Content Tools

Post a comment below.


Subscribe today and save 58%

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living!

Welcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $14.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $19.95.