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energy & nuclear

energy usage and "green" building

Everyone likes to say they are "green" these days. I was looking at the oregonion today over breakfast and they had a big feature of this builder who got some sort of "platinum" leed certification, and it had a nice picture of a high efficiency gas furnace.
Only problem was, these houses are in subdivisions- one was near Salem- the other in Washougal. And they were beautiful big custom houses- the kind you need a pair of portland doctors or lawyers without any kids to pay for.

My feeling is even if the place used no energy at all, the household would use more energy just in commuting into portland than a family of four in a 1000sf. SE portland shack with crummy aluminum single pane windows and a fifty year old oil furnace with a leaky underground tank (Especially considering the likelyhood that they are cost sensetive and keep the heat pretty low, and no AC in the summer), and use public transit in getting to work.

Some of the "green" building practices have unintended consequences. Those super-efficient furnaces get their numbers in part by having a high volume of air, and very low discharge temperature- You can heat the house to 80 degrees, and it wont "feel" warm, like a house heated to sixty five by your fifty year old 70% efficient furnace. And sealing a house up tight with tyvek and silicone caulk and foam weaterstripping- any moisture is going to cause a big mold problem when it cant get out - although this can be overcome in most cases by proper (rare) construction practices. And then theres the overengineered lighting controls, the solar panels rendered useless by the shadow of a tree limb, etc- these take energy to produce and when they dont work give all "alternative" power a bad name...

What about the energy used to produce all the material for the Washougal Subdivision? Glass, steel, kiln-dried wood etc, How about the roofing material. How about all the blacktop for the streets Pretty hard to paint any kind of street "green"

Does anyone else here see hypocrisy in all these developers, realtors, builders calling themselves "green"?

We just dont seem to "get it" in this country.

As much as I like to laugh about "pearl district" yuppies and thier condos- building UP rather than OUT is the way to an efficient "society" When I was studying forestry in college fifteen years ago, a big buzzword eco-minded people liked to throw around was "paradigm shift" To me it makes sense that we would re-define what it means to be sucsessful- and this means smaller homes, of high quality and higher density urban development... Most of us who are lucky enough to own a house (or rent one from the bank) feel like it's the only way to avoid eventual poverty- and all other factors being equal, more square feet is more money/security, becuase who knows what rent will be in 20-30 years when we are retired, etc, and we want something to give our kids some money/security as well. I personally feel rather trapped by what I percieve as reality in this issue.


You want my two cents- Turn down the heat (keep enough so your pipes dont freeze) Wear your nice wool sweater in the house. Jimmy Carter wore a sweater in the White House, and anybody else here remember the "energy ant" stickers they put on lightswitches telling you to turn the lights off when your not in the room?



fred