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The Future of Housing


A couple of politicians came to the school where I teach two weeks ago (provincial election season!).  Some of our parents wanted to discuss the possibility of our school getting a new building in the near future.  (Our current building dates back to 1968 and needs a lot of love.  Also, it is too small for our needs.)  Being the person that I am, I asked about the environmental aspect of new buildings in our province, including schools.  The response I got was “we can only do what we can with the amount of money that we have” and the usual “it simply costs too much to install solar panels, and blah, blah, blah”.  I replied “But, if you design your building properly, you will end up saving money in heat and electricity”.  And then, the politician suddenly changed the subject.  I guess he didn’t like what I had to say : )

When it comes to buildings, our society is obsessed with “up front” costs.  (Actually, we have the same problem with cars, energy production, education, health care….).  What we should be concentrating on is “life cycle costing”.  In other words, we need to look at what a building will cost to build plus what it will cost to maintain, heat, repair, etc.  That’s where “green” design saves you money – in the long run.  And, in some cases, the savings can come a lot quicker than you think.

The video below talks about a home built using the “passive house” model.  The idea behind this model is that if you make a building insulated enough, orient it in the proper direction and use the right windows in the right places, most of the heating in your home will be done passively (hence the name) by the sun.  In fact, the home in the video only needs the energy equivalent of a blow dryer to stay at the right temperature… during the winter…  In Maine!

Now, you are probably thinking “I bet the place costs a gazillion dollars”.  Actually, no.  They mention 150$ per square foot, which, according to my wife, who designs buildings for a living, is very reasonable for a home.  “But, how is that possible?” you ask.  Well, other than the solar panels, there is nothing extravagant about the house, and because of the ridiculously small amount of energy needed to heat the home, there is no need for central heating (which save a lot of $).  It simple, but it genius!



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