Building a better system to build a better house
I’ve been doing a lot of reading on this site with the blogs and the Q&A section. I’ve learned a pretty fair amount about Passivhaus , Net Zero and Green Buliding . I’ve come to some conclusions that I think may be valid, but wonder if there should be more.
I think there is a huge difference in building a house ” Green” or building a house that is going to be “Green” to live in. If you build a house that is very tightly sealed, chances are it’s not going to be environmentally friendly resources that build that house, the tradeoff being that it is an environmentally friendly house to occupy. I’m good with that; it seems to be the better trade off, since the house could possible stand for hundreds of years. I’m not sure everyone is, I think there are some that want their cake and eat it too, but It doesn’t seem possible to do both as of yet. People should not be misled, judgmental and misinformed of building products and their impact when thinking long term. Products like plastic and insulation material may not be green to produce but they may be best building material for the life of the house.
With that in mind, it seems incredibly Non-Green to rip down a house and build a greener one in its place. In fact it seems turning an old house into a more efficient house is where the focus should be. We have a lot of houses already built, those resources are already used and in place. But it seems that making an older house significantly more efficient is un-necessarily a harder goal to achieve based on resources and product availability in the market place. There is simply less options than starting from scratch; especially if you are trying to maintain as much of the original structures integrity as possible.
It also seems very clear that there is absolutely no such thing as a Net Zero House, all it takes is a couple of people with a few power hungry toys to plug into the wall, to turn a Net Zero House into a house that off- sets some of it’s energy consumption with a photovoltaic array. I don’t know if they charge you to get a house certified as Net Zero, but I’m thinking that piece of paper is worth as much as a deed to the Brooklyn Bridge. Anyone who thinks this through will feel like it’s a scam. And that’s a bad thing, because the idea of building a house that has less impact is the right idea, but getting the average person to see that with something so easily debunked as Net Zero just makes people feel like they are buying snake oil. Scenario: Oh hey I bought a Net Zero house, and I own 2 electric cars to be more Earth Friendly but it turns out I still use a hell of a lot more power than I make. I’ve been lied to . . .
I understand the need for more complicated appliances to maintain the more efficient house, things like a mechanical ventilation system, high tech furnaces and the like, but you just know that most contractors don’t deal with this stuff daily and will charge you a huge premium to work on them just because they are expensive equipment and it’s knowledge that every contractor won’t have. Not to mention it’s a new vocabulary for home owners who will basically just have to trust the person they are working with to even begin to have a cursory understanding of things. And the argument of a better informed customer … bla bla bla. But the reality is people don’t want to learn how to build a house any more than a builder wants to learn how to program a computer or do an appendectomy or whatever. The truth is this stuff isn’t mainstream enough and government, although enforces houses to be up to code, doesn’t enforce that contractors keep up with changing technology. This is problematic.
I also believe that if you want to make real changes in lowering the consumption of the Earth’s resources you have to find better ways of doing it, other than sacrifice. People don’t like giving up what they already have. You are not going to convince the majority of people to buy a smaller refrigerator to save energy, chances are the husband will love the idea, the wife , not so much. And at the end of the day, you want to be happy and not hear about the sheet-cake that doesn’t fit in the fridge. It’s really simple. Products need to be made better, and if we are talking not just energy usage but resource usage, than they have to last a hell of a lot longer than they do and be easily repairable. This again flies in the face of convention and what is going on in the market place. So again problematic, Wall Street needs quarterly profits.
Basically this all comes down to America’s (possible the world’s) way of thinking, what we value, what we believe and how we live. People get told a lot of conflicting information and grow skeptical of extremists over-selling ideas and concepts. Zealots lose a lot of credibility when they just go too far. It seems to be a very uphill battle with many fronts and not enough solutions. I came to this site to answer a question I had, stayed to read about stuff that I found very interesting and will try to implement some of what I learned where possible. There are some very well informed people here that have a lot to share and are willing to share it, which is greatly appreciated. But it also seems somewhat frustrating that closing the gap from ‘The Ideal’ to ‘The Reality’ is a fairly herculean task.
That's just my two cents, waiting on change...
Posted Thu, 09/26/2013 - 14:18
Edited Fri, 09/27/2013 - 06:52
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