A Home for Sensible Homes

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I am a pioneer designer and builder of passive solar, super-insulated, healthy and affordable homes, an instructor in sustainable design and construction, a specialist in hygro-thermal engineering based on the universal laws of thermodynamics, and a philosopher of authentically green design in harmony with the natural world.

On this site, you will find a ten-part essay series called

Riversong’s Radical Reflections On Shelter

  1. Context – land, community & ecology
  2. Design – elegant simplicity, the Golden Mean
  3. Materials – the Macrobiotics of building: natural, healthy and durable
  4. Methods – criteria for appropriate technology
  5. Foundations – from the ground up
  6. Envelope – our third skin
  7. HVAC – maintaining comfort, health and homeostasis
  8. Energy & Exergy – sources and sinks
  9. Hygro-Thermal – the alchemy of mass & energy flow
  10. Capping it All Off – hat &  boots and a good sturdy coat

As well as several more beyond the initial series, including Building (really) Green in Vermont, which was published in the Fall 2011 issue of the Green Living Journal, The Passive Solar Radiant Slab, published in the April/May 2010 issue of Home Power magazine, and my always popular Improvised Scaffolding, Cranes & Jacks and its necessary correlate: Safety on the Jobsite.

A recent (and extensive) addition is a pictorial 10,776 word essay titled From Rome to Portland – The Story of Concrete, on the very long history (and drawbacks) of concrete, from its first uses as a very natural material in Anatolia circa 11,000 BCE, through the Nabataean Bedouins, the Romans and the rediscovery of concrete 1500 years later in Europe, to the explosive expansion of concrete around the entire planet – now the second most used substance on earth after water.

My latest contribution is a ruminating critique of The Bankruptcy of the Design/Build Movement that began very near my current home in the Mad River Valley of Vermont in the mid 1960s. The essay explores the origins and evolution of the fields of architecture and engineering, investigates the essential values of those design disciplines – particularly Vitruvius’ three essential principles of firmitas, utilitas, and venustas and the core value of elegant simplicity – asserts the necessity of a whole-systems approach to the design of complex modern shelter, takes a look back at my own design and building history as well as the creation of the Design/Build Movement here on Prickly Mountain, details the shift from the Joy of Plywood to the Joy of Concrete and how building-from-the-hip leaves a lot of mistakes “cast in concrete”, examines why architecture and art are two different enterprises and why planning is essential to a quality outcome, and ruminates on what true architectural engineering craft entails.

  by Robert Riversong: may be reproduced only with attribution for non-commercial purposes

I offer design and consulting services and can be reached at HouseWright (at) Ponds-Edge (dot) net.

Some of my work can be seen at:




My other blogs are:

Turning the Tide – Shifting the Paradigm of Human Culture

aVERT – a Vertical Emergency Response Training

4 Responses to A Home for Sensible Homes

  1. Lori Holmes says:

    I am terribly interested in your philosophy and approach and would like to know whether this could be applied to retrofitting a rather tortuous addition to a (originally small) house built in the early 1800’s. Beautiful, cold location in the hilltowns of western mass needs some intelligent love. I’ve owned it for about 10 years and have a free range chicken business going on.

    • Riversong says:


      The principles of earth-conscious building apply equally to renovation as to new construction, though the challenges are different and often greater in making an old, inefficient or poorly-built structure work as it should. I have done a goodly amount of renovation and retrofitting, which often requires compromises that new construction does not, but there are wise ways to deal with old houses.

  2. Michael Dowd says:

    Another stupendous website, Robert. In addition to being (as you say and I fully agree) a “prophet, teacher, guide, and midwife”, you’re also quite an independent scholar. In any event, once again, keep up the great work!

  3. TYLER says:

    Mr. Robert Riversong I’ve been reading up on your posts and articles.. You are a very wise and admirable dude and have enlightened me, just from reading your discussions. I think the way of life which you promote is the direction we should all be headed.. We need more people like you, thank you.

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