Big (Green???) Deal: Wing House

This past weekend, Butch and I had an HGTV marathon as we lounged on my parents’ couch digesting turkey. There was a special on “weird homes” and California’s Wing House was featured. Designed by David Hertz Architects, it’s a modern masterpiece, built mostly from poured concrete, glass and the reclaimed wings of a 747.

A very interesting example of extreme reuse, but how sustainable is it, really? While the wings were “found objects,” they were found in a salvage yard, not a garbage dump – if some millionaire hadn’t grabbed them they would have ended up as recyclable scrap metal for someone else. Building a house from a traditionally non-reusable material, like plastic blister packaging or Styrofoam, something that was bound for the waste heap and nowhere else, now that would have been a true sustainable achievement.

I do appreciate the architect’s attempt to minimize the impact of the house on the natural environment, specifically with the use of rammed-earth walls cut into the Malibu hillside.

However, because of the remote location, the wings had to be airlifted to the building site via helicopter…not the most sustainable form of transportation. The architects justify their decision: “Although the pieces had to be flown in by helicopter, this method of transportation was a reasonable alternative considering the high cost of getting traditional labor and materials to the site.” I was assuming that by “high cost” they meant in $$, not in damage to the planet. But according to a Treehugger article: “The jet plane itself cost a bargain $40,000, less than half the budget for running the helicopters transporting the sectioned plane to the building site.”

Hmm….Well, we can only hope that architecturally inspired, environmentally focused conversations manage to pop up at the hostess’ cocktail parties – because even the smallest glimmer of sustainable understanding among the “1%” would be a step in the right direction.

All photos © David Hertz Architects

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