In 1974, at age 29, shortly after the very first "energy crisis", Michael went to his office everyday for a month - simply to contemplate what he wanted to be "when he grew up". At that time, he created the (previously non-existent) job description "Solar Architect". He began to address the question: "Why do solar buildings have to be ugly?" He is one of America's Solar and Energy Conscious Design Pioneers. He subsequently taught this subject for Jordan College, Purdue University, The American Institute of Architects (A.I.A.), and the Permaculture International Institute.
At the very start of his career, he practiced Design and Build - a full decade before the A.I.A. accepted the wisdom of it (at that time, they considered it unethical), believing that architects should be required to have hands-on construction experience. His very first residential design, in 1974, was naturally heated and cooled, active and passively solar heated, and earth-sheltered. He was quintessentially "Green" long before the terminology was invented!
His first commercial building design became nationally famous, and was published as an example of Green Building by the A.I.A in order to inspire other architects. Located in northern Indiana in 1975, it had no backup heating system, natural cooling, saved the owner 33% on initial building costs, had 84% energy savings, and a "pay back time" of negative 60 years (initial savings = 60 years worth of energy costs the day they moved in)!
In 1985 he was awarded the Residential Grand Prize Design award by "Better Homes and Gardens" Magazine© for a solar house he designed and built. In 1992, he designed and built the first Rastra block house in Taos County utilizing 80% recycled material with R-30 super-insulated walls.
As an advocate of Appropriate Technology, he was one of the pioneers of straw bale construction. In 1993, he co-authored a workshop to teach homeowners how to build with straw bales, prior to the acceptance of straw bale construction by the New Mexico Building Code. He is credited with innovating concrete stem wall formwork - utilizing reusable bales, and straw for ceiling insulation as well!
Although he allowed his USA licensing to expire when he lived overseas for 13 years, he was a Registered Architect and GB-98 Unlimited Contractor in the State of New Mexico from 1984-1997. He has designed and/or built over 200 homes, remodels, additions, commercial and institutional buildings.
Designing and building is a manifestation of personal growth by committing significant resources of time, money, and energy into creating a permanent structure. The building represents the achievement by the owner of certain goals, as well as a means to attain future ones. In concert with the Owner, opportunities are explored to create a design that maximizes the potential of the building site, and that are compatible with the owner's taste, lifestyle, and budget.
The design is responsive to the Owner's expression of needs and desires - within the limitations determined by the budget. Efficiency in space planning, life cycle cost effectiveness, future maintenance expense, and Green Building choices are a part of the design criteria - resulting in value conscious projects.
Successful design includes the three elements of firmness (structure), commodity (spatial relationships), and delight (aesthetics). The Designer seeks to integrate and prioritize choices of construction materials and methods, functional practicality, and aesthetic satisfaction.
A special knowledge and dedication are required to successfully execute energy conscious, solar, and natural daylighting designs in order to create sustainable buildings.