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A Rebuttal from the Builder

I received an email today from Mark Giorgetti, the head of Palo Santo Designs, the company that is remodeling my neighbor’s old adobe home. Understandably he objected to my grim view of the project, which has disrupted life on our quiet little street for much of the summer. Mr. Giorgetti’s credentials are impressive (he included a copy of his curriculum vitae) and he has been involved in a number of admirable-sounding endeavors.
	We have constructed numerous sustainable and energy efficient
	homes and remodels throughout Northern New Mexico and Southern
	Colorado [he writes]. These include homes which produce 100% of
	their energy needs with onsite renewable energy and passive solar
	design. Homes built with natural, non-toxic and low embodied
	energy building products such as straw bale and earth, and which
	recycle their waste water. . . . This is not only our expertise
	and successful business model, but also our moral and ethical
	commitment to our environment.

Excavation to enlarge the house across the street, Mr. Giorgetti allows, “has been more energy intensive than is common” because of the need to jackhammer into “unforeseen bedrock,” but he defends the overall integrity of the endeavor:

	This project, in fact, will achieve some very important green
	building improvements, including a super insulated building
	envelope with energy efficient windows and doors, passive solar
	gain (on a North Facing Slope, not easy to achieve) and the
	re-use/recycling of a 60 year old adobe structure (which was
	previously an energy sieve in terms of efficiency).

The result will not be a second home, he writes, but rather the owners’ principal residence. I have corrected my previous post to reflect that.

Energy-saving amenities are always a good thing. But I still think it is quite a stretch to call an enterprise “green” or “sustainable” when it involves hillside excavation and the expenditure of so much energy to convert what had served as a reasonably sized family home into a much larger, more luxurious residence. My gripe is not with Palo Santo itself but with the pennywise, pound-foolish nature of so much of the green building trade.

George Johnson
The Santa Fe Review