Saturday, March 27, 2004

The Sustainable House

I've been reading The Natural House by Dr. Daniel Chiras. The book provides a wealth of information of building houses that are more friendly to the planet.

Chiras argues for building natural, sustainable homes from natural materials and recycled materials for reasons of intergenerational equity and ecological justice.

While I am very much in favor of both intergenerational equity (or a moral obligation to future generations and ecological justice (or respecting all life on earth)...I think there is a much more pragmatic reason for building sustainable homes.

Selected quote:

Michael Reynolds, a New Mexico builder of alternative homes called Earthships sums up the [contemporary] situation...[when] he likens the modern home to a patient in a hospital's intensive care unit. Reynolds observes, "A person on a life support system in a hospital has to always be within reach and 'plugged in' to the various systems that keep him/her alive." The modern home is connected by pipes and wires to its own life-support systems, consisting of the electrical power grid, gas lines, water lines, sewage lines, and so on, which provide energy, water, and a host of vital services. As Reynolds points out, there is a dark side to this dependence. When systems fail due to some natural event, such as a hurricane, tornado, or earthquake, existing housing becomes non-functional. The modern house is as vulnerable an any intensive-care patient.

Our society has become entirely dependent upon a functioning electrical grid and our society is increasingly dependent upon the Internet.

Don't get me wrong, I love the Internet. I'm even pretty fond of electrical appliances. But I do not think we should assume that reliable electricity will always be the case. The rolling blackouts in California a couple of years ago and the blackout in New York city last year should give us all pause.

By building homes that are Earth friendly we can save energy and have homes that are less vulnerable to interruptions in the power supply.

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