Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Going net-zero quite net outlay

You can tell there is something of a lull today as I am offering up a second item in the space of less than two hours. I have been weighed down with a certain guilt that I haven't been entertaining my readers at quite the frequency with which they have become accustomed. I came across a nice little article last week in the Tribune about a "net-zero" house in Chicago. For the uninitiated, a net-zero house is one that in energy does just what it says: consumes no more energy than it produces, and may in favourable circumstances be a net producer. Cool n'est ce pas? Needless to say the house is suitably architecturally stimulating and also quite expensive - about $1.6 MM for a modest (according to the single occupier) 2,675 square feet. Compared to the vulgar monstrosities of excess that Dulcie provides for her well-mortgaged clients it is modest. I have heard couples wailing at the prospect of 5,800 square feet (8 bathrooms if you please) just not being enough these days.

The energy generating sections include solar panels (of course) and geothermal. There are green rooves (roofs in this country; I guess we could have a debate about that, Firefox none too happy with my word selection), things where stuff is growing to provide insulation and do its little bit for global warming. Inside there is energy-efficient lighting (of course), no plasma TVs, radiant flooring and air recirculation. Just for grins there is also a "gray water" system that diverts the washing machine water into the lavs.

It's all very lovely and would that I were a 44 year-old pharmacist (is that why so many students want to get into pharmacy?) able to afford its spendours. Would that we all could. The question is, is this a realistic vision for the future of housing? We are still waiting for the cost of solar to decrease relative to other energy sources. Will it ever? Would photovoltaics ever be workable in an apartment building where the surface area to volume ratio is a lot smaller? Meanwhile let our architects indulge our energy-conscious, well-heeled brethren. Far better that than the odious piles now losing their value by the million.

4 comments:

Terry said...

Not sure about this business of 'rooves' you know (though there is at least one other English noun I can think of which obeys this formation for the plural). I recently presented a paper at a seminar in Sheffield (very eco city these days) in a building with a turfed roof. I suppose it's a bit like a thatched cottage for the 21st century. Very green but I wouldn't want one (witness all those leaking flat roof/ves which clever architects bequeathed so many schools, colleges and even private dwellings in the 1960s and 70s).

T

Richard said...

And you are one of those that obeys the formation you old...

Perhaps you are correct. The Urban Dictionary carries the following definition:

The plural of "roof," for people too dumb to know that the real word is "roofs." Hmmm.

Rooves (I persist) with stuff growing on them are becoming quite the thing. The mayor of Chicago wants to cover the city with them; and I did learned in a video that Ford was going to convert one of its giant plants to a green roof - but this was before it almost went out of business. I too would be concerned about roots and stuff leaking through after a while. That sort of thing maybe okay in Palestine but not around here.

Anonymous said...

Next time you're in the neighborhood, will have to show you the green roof(s) on a house not far from us. The whole yard there has been "prairie" for nearly 30 years.

a loyal reader

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