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Architect Polly Osborne's philosophy: Green is good

After having grown up on the Monterey Peninsula, L.A. architect Polly Osborne couldn't help but take nature into consideration in her work. "It was all around me," Osborne says.

So too were pioneers whose ideas would ripple down the history of green architecture. Will Shaw, one of the founders, with Ansel Adams, of Foundation for Environmental Design, was her stepfather. Lawrence Halprin, a revered elder of landscape architecture, and George Brook-Kothlow, architect of handmade houses, were friends of the family.

This milieu nurtured what have been the hallmarks of Osborne's oft-awarded practice: careful siting that works with nature to keep a home comfortable; general use of local, environmentally responsible materials; and a sense of harmony with the natural world.

One such project, the Taiji residence in Menlo Park, Calif., incorporates natural clay walls, bamboo-paperstone cabinetry, recycled glass and passive solar heating.

"It just seemed that as an architect I would be doing the opposite of camping out," Osborne says. "Therefore, I had a bigger responsibility to build green."

Awards pepper the LEED-accredited architect's office walls, including a lifetime achievement award for environmental excellence, a testament to her almost three decades of work. She continues not only to design homes but to educate.

The most important message of her frequent lectures? "Conscientiousness doesn't have to cost a lot of money," she says.


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