Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The 800 Watt House

I saw this on Bourque.org yesterday - it's a beautiful home, one I'd sure like to move into, and it's touted as being quite environmental, although I'm not convinced.

Daylighting only works in single-dwelling homes with roofs. Densely packed cities (ie. with high-rises) are the greenest way to shelter people - if everyone lived in homes like this, urban sprawl would be immense.

Enviros generally seem to be against big cities, but they are the best thing for the environment - we take up less space for more people. Bicycling and public transit work best in smaller areas: mass public transit's problem in Toronto is that too few people are spread out over too big an area, so you have to choose to run many buses with few people on them (costly), or infrequent buses packed with people (inconvenient and therefore unattracting to citizens).

Dense cities are the way to go - while this is a great house, it's not the way to go. And a gas-powered laundry is sort of cheating, I think.


Anonymous e said...

Yup. Cities are probably a good way to go. A big part of environmentalists' fixation on idyllic ruralism is probably a left-over back-to-the-land urge from the 60s environmental movement.

New Scientist recently had a special issue on environmentally friendly cities. One of the really interesting points they raised is that cities can produce their own food:

In Kolkata in India, 20,000 people farm the richly composted old waste dumps and raise carp in tanks filled with the city's sewage effluent. In Lima, Peru, they raise guinea-pig meat in squatter settlements, while in Nairobi, Kenya, chickens fatten in coops bolted to apartment walls. In Haiti people grow vegetables in old truck tyres. The Bosnian capital of Sarajevo survived the siege in the early 1990s by cultivating its wasteland. Even in the UK, city dwellers grow vegetables and fruit on 300,000 urban allotments.

They go on to say that about 30% of Shanghai's land is currently used for agriculture, and that urban farmers are in such demand that they can "get rich" by plying their trade.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger Brian C said...

Darn, you need a subscription to read those New Scientist articles.

In the Green Party debate, urban sprawl was one of their peeves. Build up, not out.

The only problem with the design of that house is that it is lit during the day using natural ceiling light. That wouldn't work in any multi-unit dwelling, except for possibly townhouses.

No dishwasher and manual appliances? What, like a wind-up blender? It would take getting used to.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 12:09:00 PM  
Blogger Jason Bo Green said...

WOW, e, that's amazing - I've long said that building vertically and not horizontally can provide us with food growth... but I've never heard those stories! Those are really terrific.

I think you're right on where the idyllic ruralism comes from, by the way. It *is* idyllic, I know I'd sure love it, but I'm all for super-tall cities.

And besides, in the future, people will develop superpowers of some sort, and we've got to provide them with the right backdrops for action!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger Jason Bo Green said...


Exactly - the lighting only works for sprawl, not vertical building. Skylights are really great though, is it 80%, I believe, more light they let in than wall-mounted windows? I know I envy them.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger RGM said...

One of my profs here at Dal would love this big cities talk.

Being a person that lives on the 17th floor of an apartment building, I can attest to the benefits of high-rises. Nice and secure, I think my electricity bill works out to $1/day, and lots of natural lighting. If it weren't for the computer and the TV, I'd be pretty close to being electricity free.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 1:44:00 PM  
Blogger Jason Bo Green said...

Hm, I think my electricity bill is about 60cents a day - but I keep the refrigerator at it's lowest (er, highest?) setting and am overenthusiastic about keeping the lights off.

I think I love your prof, Richard!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 2:10:00 PM  
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Friday, August 18, 2006 3:11:00 AM  

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