Green builder Chris Magwood can sum up his philosophy in the span of a single sentence: He wants to make amazing buildings “without destroying the whole darn planet,” according to his website.
He expands on that philosophy in “Making Better Buildings,” which green building consultant and educator Dan Chiras called “quite possibly the most valuable book ever published about green building.”
Magwood will be in Moab on Monday, March 23, to give a presentation about the book. The event will take place at Back of Beyond Books, 83 N. Main St.
Community Rebuilds executive director Emily Niehaus met Magwood at the International Straw Builders’ Conference in Estes Park, Colorado, in 2012. The Moab nonprofit that helps income-qualifying families afford energy-efficient straw bale homes has been greatly influenced by Magwood, Niehaus said.
“We invited Chris to come to Moab to celebrate the release of this fabulous book and help develop curriculum for the Moab Community Rebuilds program,” Niehaus said.
Community Rebuilds is a home-building program whose participants contribute their “sweat equity” to reduce homebuilding costs. Recycling as many materials as possible from dilapidated trailers that the straw bale homes replace further reduces construction costs. Homeowners save even more money on future utility bills by incorporating passive solar design.
The nonprofit organization is currently building two homes in Moab. One is a trailer replacement on Murphy Lane, and the other is a new house construction project on Powerhouse Lane.
Magwood teaches sustainable building and design at The Endeavor Centre in Peterbourgh, Ontario. In Moab, he will show several examples of green buildings that have been completed in Canada.
“We (Community Rebuilds and The Endeavor Centre) operate on similar models, with students doing a great deal of hands-on work on a building project that includes lots of sustainable materials and systems,” Magwood said in an email to the Moab Sun News. “The Moab visit will be an opportunity for us to share and learn from each other.”
“The book was written to help people who want to build a greener home by laying out the key criteria that most green builders use and then showing how a very wide range of materials and systems rank according to these criteria,” Magwood said.
His interest in building nontoxic and energy efficient homes grew in 1996, after he built his family’s off-grid home in Ontario.
“We were interested in low-cost living, and low-impact building methods, and we ended up deciding to build the first straw bale home in Ontario,” he said. “During the process, I fell in love with building and with the process of continually trying to find better ways of working with sustainable materials and systems.”
Straw-bale homes use bales of straw as structural elements, and for insulation.
Magwood’s home contains no toxic or questionable chemical substances, and the majority of materials were sourced locally. After living in the home for a year, the family found a 70 percent reduction in energy use, 48 percent reduction in embodied energy, 71 percent less water use, and an 89 percent reduction in landfill waste, according to Magwood’s website.
Back of Beyond Books owner Andy Nettell said this is exactly the type of presentation the bookstore likes to host.
“This book is chock-full of practical how-to information,” he said. “A lot of books like this are theoretical, or gorgeous, but short on how-to. This one really is a working guide.”
Author Chris Magwood comes to Back of Beyond on March 23
Visit www.chrismagwood.ca/, or call 435-259-5154
What: Sustainable building guru Chris Magwood will present his new book “Making Better Buildings – A Comparative Guide to Sustainable Construction for Homeowners and Contractors”
When: Monday, March 23 at 7 p.m.
Where: Back of Beyond Books, 83 N. Main St.