Shades of green

What does a sustainable house look like? That depends on where it's located. A beach in Tasmania is a vastly different environment from an urban core in Rotterdam. The role of place is a key ingredient of "The Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture and Design," a traveling exhibit coming to the University of Minnesota this month.

"Green" has become such a buzzword that it's easy for Average Joes to dismiss sustainable design as the building fad du jour. But shake off your green fatigue, and it's clear that green has become a catalyst for highly creative home design worldwide.

The exhibit, mounted by the National Building Museum, is billed as "the first to explore the field of green residential design as it reaches a turning point of acceptance by both home builders and the general public."

"Green House" features photos and drawings of 22 new sustainable homes, both single- and multifamily, organized by geographic region, including desert, waterside, mountainside, tropics, city, suburb and "anywhere." Descriptions of the assets and challenges of each region, and the sustainable strategies employed by the architects in response, are included.

You'll find food for thought and inspiration -- even if your home site is a suburban cul-de-sac.