This Green House,
September 29, 2002 12:53 PM   Subscribe

This Green House, an Orlando couple's struggle to build the ecologically friendly home of their dreams: "The question eventually comes down to the price of environmental consciousness. I was asked, 'Why bother with all these things if the readily available alternatives are suitable?' And my best response is: 'Why not?'"
posted by mr_crash_davis (11 comments total)
Thanks for the link, mr_crash_davis! Not that I'll be buying or building a home anytime soon, but I wonder if the home improvement industry will increasingly cater to these concerns, or if green construction will remain something that's pretty much limited to those with lots of money. It's somewhat disheartening to read that environmentally friendly materials are so hard to come by, but this may pass - I mean, until recently exotic items like tofu and soy milk could only be found in a health food store, and now I can get all the soy products my little heart desires at the local Stop & Shop.
posted by hilatron at 1:45 PM on September 29, 2002

I saw a link once that had two maps of the US, one from 500 years ago and another representing today. Used to be, about 90% of the land east of the Mississippi river was solid forest. Now it looks more like 15%.

Does anybody have that link? I wish I could find it again. I need to be a better bookmarker.
posted by LuxFX at 2:05 PM on September 29, 2002

Couldn't find that specific map, LuxFX, but I found this page, which indicates that as of 1992 the U.S. was 32% forest, compared to roughly 50% in approximately 1600 (scroll to the bottom).

Encouragingly, it also reports that "Since about 1920...the area of forest land in the U.S. has stabilized, and even slightly increased."
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:11 PM on September 29, 2002

I used to work for construction guys in Boulder Colorado, who 'deconstructed' houses, taking them apart stick by stick, denailing everything, and sending all the salvage off to a yard where it could be bought cheaply by other contractors. Unfortunately most home construction in Boulder doesn't use them: purchasers usually buy a lot, and scrape the house into dumpsters which then go to the landfill. Maybe room for some imaginative planning requirements here - perhaps property tax breaks for people who go the recycling route - although it's better just to keep the house methinks ...

If you want to go all the way, I have friends in Taos, New Mexico who live off the grid in a hole in the ground. I guess this idea is not for all folks and it takes a deal of effort and commitment, but the results can be well worth it.1
posted by carter at 2:51 PM on September 29, 2002

<off -topic>
I'll echo Hypocrites, who said, "Help, or at least do no harm," ...

Methinks someone needs to stop relying on their spell-checker...

Seriously, though, cool post. The first I actually heard of the possibility of "green construction" was when a store in my hometown decided to essentially recycle two buildings that stood on the site they'd chosen to build on. It's good to know that these kinds of principles are making inroads among homebuilders (however slowly.)
posted by Johnny Assay at 3:01 PM on September 29, 2002

One plan we held back on was solar power -- too expensive.

despite the best efforts of the current administration, I think solar home research is progressing. the DOE has sponsored the Solar Decathalon, showcasing university solar design (in DC until october 6th). And for those with high speed connections, I bring you: ranting about sustainable living set to music.
posted by eddydamascene at 3:19 PM on September 29, 2002

The Earthship would make an excellent vacation home in locations where utilities are not available like remote mountains and islands. Building a substainable underground complex on a remote island would be too cool.
posted by stbalbach at 3:44 PM on September 29, 2002

'face it, any construction budget is a fiction anyway'

i don't know whether to laugh or cry.

solar water heating, rather than power provision, shouldn't prove too expensive.

'An example: Your total utility bill averages $160 per month and your water heating costs are average (25% of your total utility costs) at $40 per month. If you purchase a solar water heater for $2,000 that provides an average of 60% of your hot water each year, that system will save you $24 per month ($40 x 0.60 = $24) or $288 per year (12 x $24 = $288). This system has a simple payback of less than 7 years ($2,000 รท $288 = 6.9). For the remainder of the life of the solar water heater, 60% of your hot water will be free, saving you $288 each year. You will need to account for some operation and maintenance costs, which are estimated at $25 to $30 a year. This is primarily to have the system checked every 3 years'
posted by asok at 3:54 PM on September 29, 2002

My favorite solar heating activist is Nick Pine. He would probably suggest that a person take the $2000 they're going to spend on a solar water heater and use it to solar heat their house AND their water. Don't have a home? Try a solar heated homeless shelter. Worried about your pets getting too cold? Of course you need a solar heated straw bale dog house!
posted by Sirius at 6:15 PM on September 29, 2002

'face it, any construction budget is a fiction anyway'

Too true. I have plenty of respect for anyone who has gone to that much trouble to build in such an environmentally responsible way. Having recently built a new home, I can only sympathise with the problems that would be added by being a good earth citizen.
posted by dg at 8:04 PM on September 29, 2002

Sirius: thanks for the link... Nick Pine is my new role model.
posted by jacobsee at 1:14 PM on September 30, 2002

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