We just went to check out a neighbor’s house, which is part of the “Green Buildings Open House” tour day (sponsored by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association). His house, which is lovely, is similar to ours in size, and also similar in heating costs, but no doubt a lot warmer in winter– what with double-thick exterior walls, hyper-insulated roof, triple-glazed windows, extreme air-tight construction with a heat-exchange ventilation system, etc. It’s a beautiful and inspiring house.
Other houses on the tour, such as the one described here, are even more intriguing and outlandish. (Impressive as achieving R-80 insulating values is, I have trouble accepting one or two people occupying a 2,900 sq ft house as “sustainable” living. And, to avoid being labelled as a crank, I will desist from discussing the environmental impact of the decision to have 4 children… though it does make me scratch my head.)
I’m thinking maybe next year I will volunteer the Cold House to be part of the tour. But we might not be welcomed, because there isn’t much to see. Of course, that would be the point. There’s little to buy, little to demolish and rebuild, little to design. Most of the “technology” is in the brain and the body, not in the walls and or the “systems room”– and the rest is rather cheap (cast-off joint compound buckets, for example). I’d like to appeal to people who would like to save the world (or at least, lower their heating bills into the three-figure range), but don’t have the resources or inclination to do five- or six-figure renovation or construction projects.
I love that technology may save us. But I greatly fear that it will not save us fast enough. I think we should consider other alternatives based in things we’ve forgotten how to do, rather than in things we haven’t yet invented.