Shed Week 2009 interviews: Lloyd Alter

The last guest post for today, Lloyd Alter has been an architect, developer, inventor, and builder of prefab housing. He now writes for TreeHugger, is an Associate Professor at Ryerson University teaching sustainable design, and now he’s judging a shed competition via email, anyway over to Lloyd.

lloyd-rowingThere isn’t much of a shed culture yet in North America; most of us who have houses have garages that do much of the work of a garden shed.

Houses are generally larger, so there was little need for a separate workspace, just take the guest bedroom or den or a bit of the basement. In much of the continent it is much colder in winter or hotter in summer than in the UK.

Everyone has been conditioned to only be comfortable within a range of about a degree on either side of where they set the thermostat. People move a lot in North America; if someone needed another room, they would often just sell and move up to a bigger place, as big as they could afford, because hey, your house is your bank and your savings.

So much for that idea. And so much for going to the bank and getting a loan to add a room.

That’s why sheds are such a great alternative and opportunity.

They are cheaper than a renovation.

You don’t need to bust up your house to add something that you may need for just a couple of years until the kids go off to college; they let people stay in their houses and adapt .

They allow a lot more opportunity for creativity in design.

They don’t have to fit into the style of the house, they can be simple, modern, eccentric, a real expression of the individual without affecting the dreaded lowest common denominator that is perceived to maintain property values, the cause of so much housing mediocrity.

For the designer, it is a whole new market to display their talents and start a career.

If the kids move home, you have a place to get away.

You can only drink so many lattes at Starbucks. Writers huts worked for George Bernard Shaw and Mark Twain, and can provide a great place to work for you as well.

I have been very excited by the north American sheds in the competition; There have been well designed, modernist, green, sustainable and sometimes just fun studios and offices. They are testbeds of new building and energy technologies; I would not be surprised if some of the best solutions for sustainable green design come out of the shed revolution. Seth Godin has written that these are probably the best of times to start a business; It is also likely that it is the best time to build a shed.

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