December 2011

The Hybrid House; Designing with Sun, Wind, Water, and Earth

Gibbs Smith

  • P.O. Box 667
  • Layton , UT


Confucius said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step," and that is the approach of The Hybrid House, in that it seeks to inspire a transition to a "post– petroleum" future in housing. A hybrid house is a combination of materials and methods, selected for resource and energy efficiency. By the reduction of outside energy requirements, the use of non–toxic building materials, and the choosing of local materials, a "cradle–to–cradle" approach is achieved. This insures that the residents will have a healthful living environment during the life of the home and that the home does not become a toxic dump when the building is demolished.

The Hybrid House is a concentrated collection of real–life accounts of people using numerous strategies to live and build more sustainably, while at the same time preserving an enjoyable design aesthetic. Chapters include homes from the Southwest, the South, the Midwest, the Northeast, the West Coast, and Europe. There is also a list of resources for someone just getting started on the hybrid path.

One story covered involves Rand Speyrer, whose apartment was destroyed in the hurricane Katrina disaster. A series of coincidences led him to an Acadian style house in historic Washington, Louisiana—his dream home. He ended up buying this unconventional home, which has walls, floors, and ceiling insulated with 20 tons of compacted rice hulls. The rice hulls make an excellent, energy–efficient barrier from the hot, humid summers. The lot is elevated from the street and has wide porches and storm shutters (insurance against heavy rain and flooding). He is able to cool the house for a day and then the insulation holds the cool air for a few days. He spends $50.00 per month on electricity compared to his neighbors who spend $600.00 per month.

The last chapter in The Hybrid House is called "An Inspired Future,"in which the author talks about the need for a shift in awareness in order to create truly sustainable societies. This is a very thought– provoking book, full of great alternatives to our current petroleum–powered existence.

Reviewed by FIDM Library Staff Member – Cynthia Aaron