In 2008, Walmart, Sam’s Club, and Costco began adopting a revolutionary new design for milk jugs. Rather than the traditional bulbous shape, the new jugs were square and came with a litany of perks: they cost less, used fewer materials, packed tighter, used fewer resources to ship and store, and allowed for faster transport of milk, which meant it was fresher when it arrived at the store.

The only problem was consumers absolutely hated them. They had no spout and were unwieldy, leaving cereal bowls upended and spills all over the counter. As a result, they didn’t last long.

According to Lance Hosey, architect, designer, and author of the recently published The Shape of Green, "right now, green homes are the equivalent of that square milk jug."

Hosey contends that, while using better building systems, improved glazing, and other efficiency boosters can help homes perform better, if those structures aren’t designed to function well and appeal to buyers, they’ll be torn down much sooner, and therefore aren’t really green. "I use that quote from a Senegalese poet, 'In the end, we conserve only what we love,'" he said.

The green revolution Hosey is hoping to help inspire is a marriage of art and science that produces spaces that function both for their residents and for the planet, while looking good enough to be cherished. How do builders accomplish that? He’s got 10 suggestions:

1. Bridge the divide between good design and green design. "We need to make things that look and feel good, and not think of that as secondary but rather integral," he says.

2. Turn beauty and sustainability into the same thing. "To follow through the very principles of sustainability means things that look and feel attractive. Otherwise, they’re not sustainable because they’re ugly, don’t function well, and people won’t want them."

3. Erase the distinction between how things look and how things work. For Hosey, this principle is exemplified in green cars, which most people associate with hybrids. Instead, he says, "the smartest thing you can do with a car to make it green is to make it streamlined to get better mileage." For housing, that concept translates into designs that adapt for their site’s climate conditions. "What we’re doing is taking [a home design] we like and making incremental changes like better glazing, etc. A revolutionary change would be starting from scratch to think about the best possible solution for a given place."

4. Break down the walls between the arts and sciences. "If you can get a really smart, ambitious mechanical engineer to be part of the design team, it’s unbelievable what they can come up with," he says. "The sky’s the limit."

5. Adopt three principles:

a. Conserve: Shape things to respect resources.

b. Attract: Shape things to be easy to use and deeply satisfying.

c. Connect: Shape things to embrace place.

6. Start with the napkin sketch, not the technical manual. Drawing a building’s basic form allows simple solutions to emerge, Hosey says. "You very quickly get to a basic form before you get to the mechanicals and technological aspects, and you develop a huge part of how the building is going to perform."

7. Develop a scientific method for design. Hosey recommends starting with a rigorous process and a set of challenges that need to be solved. "You might end up with a different response every time you build because it’s a different place."

8. Strengthen the ties between form and performance, between image and endurance.

9. Make things to work as well and to last as long as they should. In addition to building to high standards with long lasting materials, part of the solution is also designing structures that can be adapted to multiple uses, Hosey says. "When you build a hospital, if the hospital leaves, can it become something else?"

10. Make things better. "By things I mean stuff, objects and places," he says. "But I also mean circumstances, the condition of the world. So if we started every conversation by asking, 'How are we going to make this have the best possible impact on the community and the world?' what would that produce?"

Claire Easley is a senior editor at Builder.