When an architect, residential builder, and owner sit around a table for their first design meeting, their ostensible goal is to begin designing a house. Whether they realize it or not, however, these three people are also predicting the future.
If the team members are planning to build a code-minimum house in the suburbs, they are (in effect) predicting that the next thirty years will be similar to the last thirty years. The future homeowner expects to be able to afford to buy a car and to find enough fuel for the car to carry him or her to work and to the supermarket. The owner expects the local municipality to be able to deliver enough potable water for cooking, to keep a family clean, and to keep the lawn watered. And the owner expects energy prices to be stable enough to allow the home to be heated in winter and air-conditioned during the summer.
On the other hand, if the team members are planning to build a Passivhaus on an urban infill lot, they may be predicting that energy prices will rise or that fuel supplies will become tight.
And if the team members are planning to build a cistern-equipped house and barn on 10 rural acres, they may be predicting that water supplies and food delivery systems may be disrupted in future years.
Predictions of doom are nothing new
In 1973, when the first oil crisis caused fuel prices to spike, Americans could pick and choose from a variety of doomsday scenarios. Paul Ehrlich’s book, The Population Bomb, was still selling briskly. The Club of Rome’s report, Limits to Growth, predicted that future materials shortages (including energy shortages) would lead to a collapse of industrial economies. Tens of thousands of young hippies, convinced that the capitalist economic system was…