Do Houses Have to be So BIG?

Written by John Dodge, Contributor

In trying to be "the greenest custom home in America" as shown in the video below, what Paul Holland and his family have set out to do is commendable. The home will be off the grid and promises to use no fossil fuel. Indeed, this is a good thing.

But one thing strikes me. The home in the video looks massive and obviously will cost millions. I believe that he wants to inspire others to use passive energy sources such as heat exchangers, solar PV and lots of glass where presumably the sun shines most of the time. No doubt, this will be a spectacular place to live.

But if only the well-heeled can afford such homes, how can the common man identify with what he can ever hope to afford? Isn't it the common man and woman we to trying convince? Without their buy-in, we won't begin to put a dent in home energy usage.

While today we talk about inspiring others to be more energy efficient in their homes, the idea of zero energy homes is rapidly losing its optional status. As Paul points out, California mandates that all new construction use zero energy by 2020. Three cheers for California which leads in so many ways.

What will inspire the masses to get passionate about zero energy homes is to show how favorable the economics can be as with the Zero Energy Challenge in Massachusetts which I blogged about yesterday. The homes in this program are smaller than the typical family home and are often one story. The are also affordable and replicate-able.

It boils down to this: as a species, can we change our consumption habits? Last October, I heard a speaker at an energy conference declare that humans are "chromosominally" (what an energy hog of a word!) incapable of conserving. It's human nature to want more and bigger so the speaker posited that the answer to present day problems is finding new energy sources that are less destructive.

That may or may not be true. I love nice homes and presently live in one approaching 4,000 square feet or about half of what my empty-nester wife and I need. But I think we should give some thought to house size and using space more efficiently.

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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