I built my first “green” structure when I was ten years old—a multilevel tree house with views of my backyard and the woods beyond. The whole thing was built from lumber cast off (with permission, honestly) from a construction site down the road and hauled in by kids with wagons. Old nails straightened with hammers, a rusty handsaw for the cuts and a rickety ladder borrowed from some kid's father got us that fort in the sky—and my first experience in recycling and reuse. Actually, I had the privilege of growing up around talented people with solid skills. My grandfather worked on the Old Ironsides renovations at the shipyard in Boston. My father taught me his renovation skills. I worked on a house build when I was fourteen with a man who was a natural at creating beautifully engineered trusses and carriers. When I was a twenty-year-old UConn student, I spent my weekends in New Hampshire helping friends build their summer home out of salvaged materials. Did the experience stick? Who knows? But this dyed-in-the-wool Yankee has always considered material reuse and recycling to be an important part of any build or renovation project.
Today, I can look back on thirty-five years as a careful renovator, a thirty-year career as a DHW solar designer and installer, a solar thermal educator for the New Hampshire community college system, and a green builder long before it became fashionable. I belong to that group of “pioneers” that back in the seventies began pushing alternatives to our enormous energy appetites, despite the frustrating knowledge that what we were so right about was falling on deaf ears. Practical alternative solutions to our old ways have always been intriguing and have influenced my philosophy about building, renovating, and solar work over the years. Practical is where I start with anyone. . .