The rise of the locavore movement introduced millions of people to the 100-mile diet, which involves eating only food produced within one's own region. Now, a new focus on sustainable architecture is applying the same concept to homes.
The idea of a 100-mile house shouldn't be shocking: Historically, most homes were made using local materials simply because it was more practical. But in an age when even middle-class homeowners can order marble countertops from Italy and bamboo floors from China, creating a home entirely from local materials challenges builders to carefully consider every piece of the structure, from the foundation to the eaves.
Last week, the Architecture Foundation of British Columbia launched an international competition to design a 1,200-square-foot, four-person home that exclusively uses materials made or recycled within 100 miles of Vancouver. David M. Hewitt, the current chair of the Architecture Foundation, came up with the idea for the competition on a whim and presented it at a board meeting. "It was almost thrown out facetiously, and everybody latched onto it," he says.
Architects have consciously borrowed from the sustainable food movement in their efforts to make buildings greener—not coincidentally, Vancouver was also the birthplace of the 100-mile diet. In 2007, after they learned that the average ingredient travels 1,500 miles to a diner's plate, authors James MacKinnon and Alisa Smith chronicled their yearlong effort to eat only food sourced from within a 100-mile radius of their Vancouver home. Now, as the concept of sustainable building evolves, questions about where building materials are sourced and the environmental impacts of extracting, manufacturing, and transporting those materials are beginning to come into sharper focus.