I grew up around building. My dad was a developer, so I got all the really horrible jobs! I started my adult career in high tech, but my interest in building remained. I began studying architecture, but part of the way through I realized I couldn’t draw. I made the jump to the solar industry just after the first net metering regulations were passed in California, which really was the genesis of the solar industry as we know it today.
I’ve always been committed to living a sustainable lifestyle and being conscientious about my personal impact on the environment. I decided in 2001 to align my career goals with my environmental goals and became an energy consultant focused on commercial and residential solar power. In this role, I worked with homeowners and businesses to develop solar power systems, but I soon realized that what I was doing only offered a point solution; it didn’t really help people to make their homes and lives more sustainable.
In the United States, residential housing accounts for almost 21% of the carbon footprint. Even if every home built from here on out was a “green building,” we still have all of this existing housing stock that is not efficient, and will continue to leave a huge carbon footprint. I realized that even if we implemented solar power systems on existing homes, we still were not attacking the underlying issue of maximizing a home’s performance by properly sealing ducts, or installing insulation that would help lessen energy loads to make solar systems more efficient.
In 2004, I developed the concept of Sustainable Spaces. Our focus was to use science and technology to qualitatively and quantitatively upgrade and retrofit homes to help homeowners improve the comfort, efficiency and health of their existing homes. We work with homeowners to create a roadmap for improving their home’s performance. Not everyone can make their home 100% green and zero energy in the ﬁrst-pass, but by creating a comprehensive plan homeowners can begin the path towards sustainability and see real results on almost any budget.
To me, green building means beginning with the basics and fixing what we already have. Building new, efficient housing is not the greenest thing we can do if we aren’t already working to improve what we already have.
--Matt Golden ownes Sustainable Spaces, an energy retrofit company in San Francisco, Calif.