Green Apparatus: Ecology of the American House According to Building Codes
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AbstractIn 2008, California introduced the first-in-the-nation Green Building Standards Code to encourage sustainable construction practices. While the adoption of the CALGreen Code marked a significant moment in the process of the greening of building regulations, it represents only one moment in the nation's history of code-making, and that of environmental action. Two parallel narratives, and their eventual mergence are the subject of this study. The first one is a story of the agendas that shaped the American house, and the regulations that govern it; the second an account of the rise of environmental awareness as gradually standardized by law-makers and normalized by economists. The goal is to evaluate the wide-ranging consequences of their convergence - not just the isolated green building standards. Essentially, while environmentalists criticize the devastating global effects of consumerism, free trade, and fossil fuels; governments and local authorities focus on fine-tuning of individual standards, and diffusion of efficient technologies at the scale of households. It remains to be seen whether these measures will minimize the environmental impact of American houses, or simply perpetuate the market-driven image of sustainability, and further complicate the multi-layered building code that they try to mend. This research is ultimately concerned with an apparatus which uses the house, and green technologies as a vehicle for economic growth. For this reason, it would remain incomplete if it exclusively focused on ecological ideas and legislative programs, disregarding economic forces, market instruments, and technology. The first part of this study provides an account of ecological ideas, economic agendas, and regulatory programs as they emerged, influenced each other, and informed the character of environmental action and American households, specifically those built in California, and the City of Los Angeles. The second part investigates the mechanics of the regulations used to standardize building practices, and financial incentives used to promote green technologies. As Bateson observed, ideas and programs interact and survive in circuits. It would then be a fallacy to assume that by changing ideas and programs, and updating standards and recipes, we can change our environmental awareness. Ideas and standards must be questioned, but the matrix from which they originate needs to be occasionally re-circuited as well.
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