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Scott Adams On the Difficulty of Building a 'Green' Home

Soulskill posted about 4 years ago | from the it's-not-easy-being-green dept.

Earth 482

An anonymous reader writes "Scott Adams built himself a new house with the goal of making it as 'green' as possible, and detailed his experience for those interested in following in his missteps. Quoting: '... So the architect — and later your building engineer, too — each asks you to sign a document saying you won't sue them when beavers eat a load-bearing wall and your entire family is crushed by forest debris. You make the mistake of mentioning this arrangement to your family, and they leave you. But you are not deterred because you're saving the planet, damn it. You'll get a new family. A greener one. Your next hurdle is the local planning commission. They like to approve things that are similar to things they've approved before. To do otherwise is to risk unemployment. And the neighbors don't want to live next to a house that looks like a compost pile. But let's say, for the sake of this fascinating story, that everyone in the planning commission is heavily medicated with medical marijuana and they approve your project over the objections of all of your neighbors, except for the beavers, who are suspiciously flexible. Now you need a contractor who is willing to risk his career to build this cutting-edge structure. Good luck with that.'"

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who cares (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33349914)

Aren't there better articles that aren't written by a litigious, unfunny cocksmack who fags up the comics world by repeating stale old jokes about 'pointy-haired bosses' and various *berts?

It's not even better than gunnershit fail.

Re:who cares (5, Insightful)

Fluffeh (1273756) | about 4 years ago | (#33349940)

Aren't there better articles that aren't written by a litigious, unfunny cocksmack who fags up the comics world...

Apparently not. I found it quite humorous. It's nice to see some insight into a process like this from someone with a sense of humor and the ability to laugh at things that make him angry.

Now, go get a nice cup of cocoa, take off those grumpy pants and have a nap. Looks like someone needs a little downtime.

Re:who cares (2, Informative)

jhol13 (1087781) | about 4 years ago | (#33350194)

I'd say it is as humorous as recent Dilberts. That is, very boring.

Besides, his assumptions are utterly idiotic. For example windows are not that bad energy losers (U < 0.8 are available easily). If you have photovoltaics the colour of the roof hardly matters. Insulation costs next to nothing, unless you want to use more expensive ones (to keep it thin). Etc, see e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-energy_house [wikipedia.org]

Re:who cares (1)

toastar (573882) | about 4 years ago | (#33350302)

Scott Adams has never been Dave Berry

Re:who cares (3, Informative)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | about 4 years ago | (#33350408)

actually, with well designed argon filled double pane windows, your windows will transmit less heat *than the surrounding walls* white roofs make a huge difference (just ask anyone who has to run ethernet cable through attics in the summer in the southwest, dark roof = miserable, light roof = not so bad). insulation is not as cheep as you think.

Re:who cares (3, Informative)

pnewhook (788591) | about 4 years ago | (#33350468)

For example windows are not that bad energy losers

I beg to differ. If you are looking for enery loss guidelines, the rule of thumb is the best window is the same as the worst wall.

Insulation costs next to nothing

Really? Ever try and make an R40 roof or R20 wall? Not ridiculous, but not nothing either.

Re:who cares (1)

morari (1080535) | about 4 years ago | (#33350540)

The summary seems to point out that the major misteps were getting the government involved (through inspectors, planners, commissioners, etc) and having neighbors to complain about what you do with your home on your property. Both are easily avoided with a little forethought as to location and distance from main roads.

It's an old quote... (5, Insightful)

alexschmidt (1026034) | about 4 years ago | (#33349924)

"Pioneers usually end up with arrows in their backs" I wish you all the best.

Re:It's an old quote... (5, Informative)

nacturation (646836) | about 4 years ago | (#33350044)

"Pioneers usually end up with arrows in their backs"

That was pretty much his conclusion too. Among other amusing quotes:

In my defense, the price of your future photovoltaic system will never come down unless idiots like me pay too much today. You're welcome.

Of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33349948)

You have to be Scott Adams to NOT realize that the world is filled with actual, living human beings who really act like Ratbert and PHBs.

Who needs mortar? (1)

AMHB (1833512) | about 4 years ago | (#33349960)

Use Vegemite instead!

Re:Who needs mortar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33350144)

Then you don't only need to worry about the beavers, but also those Australian immigrants the next street over.

Re:Who needs mortar? (2, Funny)

MDillenbeck (1739920) | about 4 years ago | (#33350198)

Sorry, I'm in the Nutella camp. ;) (Mmmmmm... tasty sticks...)

George W Bush did (5, Informative)

dazedNconfuzed (154242) | about 4 years ago | (#33349992)

Seems the much maligned president owned, with little fanfare, a rather "green" home. Passive solar heating, natural cooling, geothermal energy, modest size, rainwater collection, nature preserve, all made for a model environmentalist domicile. (This in contrast to the fast talking "green" showman whose mansion burned 20x the national average.)

Re:George W Bush did (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33350140)

Seems the much maligned president owned, with little fanfare, a rather "green" home. Passive solar heating, natural cooling, geothermal energy, modest size, rainwater collection, nature preserve, all made for a model environmentalist domicile. (This in contrast to the fast talking "green" showman whose mansion burned 20x the national average.)

The natural conclusion being that we need to stop listening to the showman and start listening to the guy with the green home and the environmentally unsound public policy?

Re:George W Bush did (4, Insightful)

k8to (9046) | about 4 years ago | (#33350142)

Must everything be partisan?

Re:George W Bush did (1)

Stargoat (658863) | about 4 years ago | (#33350146)

I'd like to know more about geothermal heating and cooling. [geocomfort.com] This technology seems relatively affordable, durable, and best of all - simple. Why don't more people use it?

Re:George W Bush did (0)

spike2131 (468840) | about 4 years ago | (#33350234)

Geothermal has a minor issue with causing earthquakes. [scientificamerican.com]

Re:George W Bush did (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | about 4 years ago | (#33350492)

On industrial power generation scales. Smaller residential and commercial geothermal HVAC installations have no earthquake effect.

Re:George W Bush did (5, Informative)

mprinkey (1434) | about 4 years ago | (#33350314)

I've had a geothermal heatpump for almost 10 years. My parents for even longer. They are great, especially in harsh heating climates. We live near Pittsburgh, and they have proved quite affordable. Local contractors have really just started installing them...I had to really look around to find an installer. Most HVAC guys don't want to have to mess with a well-drilling sub and a maybe a backhoe sub to trench from the wells to the house. It is a lot more work, compared to an air-source unit...and far messier! Install an air-source unit, you will get a few holes in your foundation for coolant lines and power to the compressor unit...and then the normal ductwork, air handler inside and the air-source unit sitting outside on a drop-down concrete pad. If the ductwork is in place, it is a 1-2 day job.

With geothermal, (if it is done right) you will have a dozen or more holes in your foundation for the in/out of the loops from each well into a manifold in the basement. You WANT that manifold in case one of the wells dies. You will have trenches from the foundation to the wells...and the wells need to be 10-15 feet apart, so some significant part of your yard will look like hell. Mine took about two weeks to complete because the well driller broke down on the fourth well. And the backhoe operator came *this* close to putting the bucket through my foundation wall. It is a monstrous headache to do a retrofit install, but for new construction, it would be a bit easier. In any case, the cost for the loop install can be a back-breaker. The geothermal units themselves are IMO overpriced too, due to lower production volumes.

Re:George W Bush did (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 4 years ago | (#33350362)

Probably because cheap is relative. We specced a system for our house which is actually sited well for a geothermal loop - on volcanic clay with a lot of water flow (not sited well for many other things including structural stability, but that's not germane here).

Close to 50,000 grand to heat a 2200 sq. foot home. A lot of that cost was due to retrofitting and if I was building a house I might think about using that system (as well as shooting myself). Considering we heat with wood for a cost of about $400 a year, the payback time doesn't make sense.

That's a nice little brochure they have there but of course, YMMV. Savings not guaranteed. That's much of what Adams was saying - lots of suggestions and ideas from whole bunches of people, but each building is unique and the engineering required to make a good estimate of your thermal (and financial) budget seems to be beyond everyone in the residential building sector.

I imagine that for larger buildings you can afford to hire better engineers and get more data, but it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to spend $50,000 on thermal engineering for a $500,000 house (on top of the architect, structural engineer and your cousin the drywall guy).

Re:George W Bush did (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | about 4 years ago | (#33350510)

Do you take into account the 33% tax credit for geothermal installations?

Re:George W Bush did (1)

Again (1351325) | about 4 years ago | (#33350522)

I'd like to know more about geothermal heating and cooling. [geocomfort.com] This technology seems relatively affordable, durable, and best of all - simple. Why don't more people use it?

My parents have it in their home and it has a pretty high upfront cost. Because my parents live in a rural area, the cost of piping was a lot less as the pipes didn't have to straight down but rather approximately 700 meters of pipes that are only a couple of meters underground. The local energy company (Manitoba Hydro) had / has? a financing plan they use for pushing this kind of thing forward and made it possible for my parents to have it (they really like selling excess power south of the border).

According to my experience there are a few downsides to geothermal heating / cooling. In the middle of winter, the geothermal heating unit can't keep up and the electric furnace which is kept as backup kicks in to keep the house warm (albeit only in -40 type weather). The whole unit takes a fair amount of space in piping and equipment. Space in large cities is much more valuable resource which raises the upfront cost.

But even given these few downsides, I see geothermal as the future way of heating and cooling our homes.

Re:George W Bush did (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33350182)

all made for a model environmentalist domicile. (This in contrast to the fast talking "green" showman whose mansion burned 20x the national average.)

That's great. Now how many centuries do you think you could run Al Gore's home on the fuel GWB used to regularly commute to his green ranch in his 747?

Re:George W Bush did (3, Insightful)

postbigbang (761081) | about 4 years ago | (#33350392)

The real travesty here is not recapturing all the hot air in Wash DC and heating much of the Eastern Seaboard with it.

Re:George W Bush did (4, Informative)

Calroth (310516) | about 4 years ago | (#33350252)

(This in contrast to the fast talking "green" showman whose mansion burned 20x the national average.)

http://www.snopes.com/politics/business/gorehome.asp [snopes.com]

Re:George W Bush did (1, Insightful)

zippthorne (748122) | about 4 years ago | (#33350386)

I love the "mitigating factors" such as "the gore home is four times the size of an average home." As if... To be greener, we should all get bigger homes? Brilliant!

Re:George W Bush did (5, Informative)

Reverberant (303566) | about 4 years ago | (#33350452)

I love the "mitigating factors" such as "the gore home is four times the size of an average home." As if... To be greener, we should all get bigger homes? Brilliant!

How about quoting the rest of that sentence: "it's about four times larger than the average new American home built in 2006, and it essentially functions as both a residence and a business office since both Al and Tipper work out of their home." And by business office, that means an office with staff. They could get a smaller home and outside office spaces, but that would use more energy (plus the energy required to get to/from work).

Re:George W Bush did (1, Insightful)

microbox (704317) | about 4 years ago | (#33350546)

To believe 0.5% of the alarmist anti-Gore propaganda, you'd have to have zero education in the sciences, or be so completely partisan as to turn a blind eye to the most blatant Machiavellian politics.

Which are you?

Re:George W Bush did (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33350304)

This in contrast to the fast talking "green" showman whose mansion burned 20x the national average

Keep spreading those lies:

http://mediamatters.org/research/200703010008 [mediamatters.org]
From The Tennessean:
Gore purchased 108 blocks of "green power" for each of the past three months, according to a summary of the bills.
That's a total of $432 a month Gore paid extra for solar or other renewable energy sources.
The weblog Think Progress also reported that Gore's office said "Gore's family ... sign[ed] up for 100 percent green power through Green Power Switch" and "purchas[ed] carbon offsets to offset the family's carbon footprint."

Additionally, a February 27 Associated Press article, questioned TCPR's assertion that the Gores used more than 220,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2006. The AP reported that "according to bills [it] reviewed," "[t]he Gores used about 191,000 kilowatt hours in 2006," while TCPR "said that Gore used nearly 221,000 kilowatt hours." The AP reported that TCPR president Jason "Drew" Johnson "said his group got its figures from Nashville Electric Service. But company spokeswoman Laurie Parker said the utility never received a request from the policy center and never gave it any information.

Bolding added.

Re:George W Bush did (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33350372)

Carbon offsets are a joke. How about just not producing the extra carbon in the first place?

Hmm (-1, Troll)

228e2 (934443) | about 4 years ago | (#33350034)

You make the mistake of mentioning this arrangement to your family, and they leave you.

I dont think this is entirely why your family left you.

Dont get me wrong, im a fan of his work, but . . . c'mon.

For all his complaints (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33350042)

Every single one of them would be just as much a problem if he were building a regular home. Or even buying one.

It is stressful. Unless you have enough money to just throw out a check and not worry, you're going to have problems.

From the roof to the foundation, and even in the ground. You won't know what's going to go wrong, but something will.

Modular (5, Interesting)

istartedi (132515) | about 4 years ago | (#33350048)

They should build green modular homes and deliver them all over the country. A modular home is not a trailer. You can afix it to a permanent foundation, although in many parts of the country you shouldn't do that either.

Much of California, for example, in its infinite government insanity, will not allow you to live in a trailer even in a rural area. Why would I want to live in a trailer, praytell? Well, it'd be nice to think that the next time a nearby hill caught on fire, you could, you know... maybe at least have a fair chance of MOVING THE HOUSE OUT OF THE WAY. Instead, the county insists that you 1. Build a really expensive house and then 2. Permanently cement it to something that will eventually blowtorch it down, wash it away, or shake it apart.

Invariably, when fires occur they strip away trees and reveal more "illegal substandard housing" than anybody ever realized existed. These would be "people who had the right idea". It makes a helluva lot more sense to build a *shack* up there than anything more expensive. If you try to do that, the county will FINE YOU. IMHO, it's the county government that should be fined. If only we had a government by the people, for the people...

Re:Modular (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33350154)

While I respect the value modular homes, and even trailers, they aren't portable enough to move during a wildfire. Or even during any disaster.

After maybe, but not during. It takes hours to get one ready to move. And a while to move it.

I suppose you could build ones for rapid movement, but it's not likely to be popular. People with that kind of home want them cheap. More rapid portability will cost more.

Re:Modular (1)

mprinkey (1434) | about 4 years ago | (#33350336)

Everyone packing up and moving their mobile homes. Yeah, that would be an interesting traffic jam a few hours ahead of the wildfire.

Re:Modular (1)

kd5zex (1030436) | about 4 years ago | (#33350456)

They are actually quite popular, especially amongst the "snowbird" crowd. Modular homes equipped for rapid movement are commonly referred to as Recreational Vehicles, or RVs for short.

Re:Modular (0, Troll)

PsychoSlashDot (207849) | about 4 years ago | (#33350218)

For all intensive purposes, "whom" is no longer a word. That begs the question, "who cares?"

Intents and.

Re:Modular (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33350368)

Whoosh!

Re:Modular (5, Funny)

nmb3000 (741169) | about 4 years ago | (#33350262)

Much of California, for example, in its infinite government insanity, will not allow you to live in a trailer even in a rural area.

Pretty simple, I think. California has enough problems on their plate with earthquakes and wildfires. They don't need additional natural disasters to worry about -- and everyone knows that trailer parks attract tornadoes.

Re:Modular (4, Interesting)

OutLawSuit (1107987) | about 4 years ago | (#33350288)

I think you'd have a different perspective on trailers if you lived in the South. They're all over the place due to how cheap they are. They're meant to used on a more temporary basis but people continue to use them as their permanent homes. As a result most trailers are in poor condition and would literally fall apart if you attempted to move them. At that point they're just an eyesore and detract from everything around them (including property values)... That's the real reason they're not allowed in most cities.

Modular Homes are completely different and are meant to be used as permanent structures, hence they have no axles. Due to how controlled the factory environment is, you'll often times get a better quality modular house than you would a conventionally built one.

Re:Modular (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about 4 years ago | (#33350426)

They're all over the place in California, too. By my estimation, there are probably 4-5,000 units in Sunnyvale alone (assuming those parks on the other side of Lawrence are on this side of the city limit... not sure. If I'm right about that, then if the average household is 4.3 people then that's something like 10-15% of the city living in mobile home parks....

The difference is that in California, the mobile homes are built much better than the ones you see in the South. Instead of 2x4 walls on the outside, they use 2x6 studs. Instead of 2x2 for interior walls, they use proper 2x4 studs. They often have raised ceilings, inset porches on the ends, etc. In short, they are pretty much regular stick-built house quality, except that they have a sturdier frame under them and are brought onto the property in two pieces instead of a thousand. That's the difference between a $25,000-$50,000 mobile home and a $125,000-$150,000 mobile home.

Re:Modular (1)

GiveBenADollar (1722738) | about 4 years ago | (#33350486)

Nobody wants to live in a trailer. They are cheap and provide a roof and four walls. Would you rather that people who cannot afford to buy a house go homeless? Or is it better to finance everyone so that even people who cannot afford a house can get one? We all know what California's answer was.

Re:Modular (3, Informative)

lawpoop (604919) | about 4 years ago | (#33350322)

They should build green modular homes and deliver them all over the country.

I think this was the idea behind Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion house [wikipedia.org]

Re:Modular (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33350422)

If only we had a government by the people, for the people...

I somehow got the impression that part of California's fiscal troubles stem (in part) from it being excessively "by the people": that the ability of the general public to vote directly on legislation tends to result in a lot of decisions prompted more by the emotions of a mob than by the comparatively cooler calculations of a professional legislator (and his/her staff).

Re:Modular (1, Interesting)

sumdumass (711423) | about 4 years ago | (#33350450)

The problems with trailers are that they generally decrease in value as they age as moving them becomes more difficult and expensive.

The reasons government refuse to allow their use by regular people (yes, the government is allowed to install them in most areas) is because it reduces property values and decreases the tax base. I was front line when our township banned mobile home trailers and that was the main reasoning- property taxes couldn't be relied on with them. They eventually slipped in some some minimum building requirements (like square footage and types of roofs that will inflate the footage) too in order to maintain the tax base. It really is about greed by the government. Insanity is just a given.

Re:Modular (1)

khallow (566160) | about 4 years ago | (#33350478)

Well, it'd be nice to think that the next time a nearby hill caught on fire, you could, you know... maybe at least have a fair chance of MOVING THE HOUSE OUT OF THE WAY.

I strongly doubt that due to two obstacles. First, it's hard to get the proper moving equipment. I imagine if this became popular, then you'd have to compete with everyone else to get yours moved first. Second, who's going to risk their lives moving your home?

There's two alternatives. First, a recreational vehicle. It has the advantage of being inherently mobile and some of them are pretty posh. The key drawbacks are that they're high maintenance, the manufacturers often go in and out of business, and they have little resale value. The second alternative really isn't an alternative, but rather a different strategy for the modular home. Rather than make it mobile, you make it expendable. Put the important stuff off-site or, if you're cheap and something of a gambler, in a fire-proof safe or in something you can grab fast. The rest? Let it burn, just make sure it's insured first. A new home will spring up like a mushroom after the rain.

Re:Modular (1)

Greyfox (87712) | about 4 years ago | (#33350490)

Or you could, you know, not live someplace that burns to the ground every other year. There are many such places in the country, and many of them are also not demolished in hurricanes, tornadoes or earthquakes every other year, either. Many of those places have much more reasonable regulations, too. Hell, in many of those places you can even live in a shack if you want to!

Re:Modular (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33350558)

you can attach a trailer to a foundation doesnt make it any less shitty

Wealth (3, Funny)

gmhowell (26755) | about 4 years ago | (#33350064)

I'm guessing he's not as wealthy as I suspected. If he had real money, he would speak with some manservant and say "take care of this". A few months later he would enter his new green space. I guess being able to say "I'm Al Gore bitches!" carries a bit more sway than being the inventor of Dogbert.

Re:Wealth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33350244)

Shame too. Dogbert has done much more for the world than al gore ever will.

Damm thats fucking sad... beat by a badly drawn cartoon dog.

A bit of an old article... (-1, Offtopic)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 4 years ago | (#33350074)

That story was published in the Wall Street Journal two days ago. I was going to submit it, but my experience tells me I'm better off wadding an article up and spitting it in the general direction of slashdot if I want to see it on the front page.

So now we see "the other day's news that mattered two days ago".

Re:A bit of an old article... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33350212)

What's your fucking point? You really sound like a whiney BITCH on the rag.

Re:A bit of an old article... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33350356)

/. used to be the all inclusive tech site I'd depend on for my bleeding edge fix for years but now I only come here for the fine comments, I've RTFA elsewhere in one form or another days ago in most cases.

LEED certification and Sick Building Syndrome (1)

Gazoogleheimer (1466831) | about 4 years ago | (#33350080)

This reminds me of an interesting problem LEED buildings often have with humidity and gas concentrations--and, in general, what is loosely described as sick building syndrome. Sealing a building to that point of efficiency might be green, but it isn't healthy for its occupants.

Re:LEED certification and Sick Building Syndrome (3, Informative)

bored_engineer (951004) | about 4 years ago | (#33350188)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_recovery_ventilation [wikipedia.org] They're becoming increasingly common, particularly in colder climates. In Alaska, many newer homes are so well-sealed that a full air exchange in the house can take days. Properly sized, an HRV can provide just the right level of fresh air, and has the side benefit of recovering some of the heat. (Recovering some of the heat is important! Many areas of Alaska rely primarily on oil for heating. The Anchorage area has an extensive natural gas distribution system, but it's limited in other cities and villages, where it exists at all.)

Re:LEED certification and Sick Building Syndrome (2, Interesting)

MDillenbeck (1739920) | about 4 years ago | (#33350248)

Which is why you use an air exchanger. In and out ducts are overlapped, allowing for passive heat exchange to occur (hot air vented in the winter warms the incoming air, cold air in the summer warms the incoming hot air). This actually improves air quality as you are turning over more CFM in from your house than in a traditional construction, all while recouping some of that energy you spent in heating and cooling.

Re:LEED certification and Sick Building Syndrome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33350276)

HRV (heat recovery ventilation) is the answer to efficient tight buildings. Just a heat exchanger between the incoming and outgoing air to reduce the amount of unwanted heating or cooling of the interior air.

The Perfect Is The Enemy Of The Good (4, Insightful)

assertation (1255714) | about 4 years ago | (#33350126)

You don't need a perfect high tech green house.

We could get a lot of bang......for very FEW bucks just using power strips, replacing incandescent light bulbs, drinking tap water and shopping with resuable backs.

Those things aren't enough, but if you could get large numbers of people doing them......and these things are cheap enough to get people to do them, it would be a huge impact

Re:The Perfect Is The Enemy Of The Good (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33350222)

The problem is not that it's hard to build the *perfect* green house, it's that it's unreasonably difficult to build *any* sort of house other a concrete foundation + above-ground sticks & the same utility connections that we've had for 100 years. Any non-cosmetic variation from that building method will get you resistance from contractors, regulators, and neighbors, as Mr. Adams notes. In the last 100 years the only things we've done to improve the "greenness" of home construction is add some insulation to walls and roofs and use double-pane windows; even really simple, effective things like steel supports, sod roofs (or even steel roofs, as opposed to tar shingles), buried walls/thermal ground coupling, oversized overhangs, passive solar heating -- things that we know work and aren't even terribly expensive or new -- are very difficult to get built unless you live in the middle of nowhere and are willing to pay through the nose. And don't even consider "new" technologies like alternative energy sources or other non-standard utilities unless your neighborhood is already full of them, because the HOA will never grant you a permit for the extra equipment on your roof/lawn/etc.

Re:The Perfect Is The Enemy Of The Good (0)

hercubus (755805) | about 4 years ago | (#33350256)

... drinking tap water and shopping with resuable backs...

I wish my back was re-usable, re-suable, or what have you. I use my back once and it's out for a week, and it makes me want to re-sue somebody.

But tap water? Really? Dude, they put fluoride and chlorine in that - drinking the stuff is just crazy.

Re:The Perfect Is The Enemy Of The Good (3, Insightful)

assertation (1255714) | about 4 years ago | (#33350290)

Buy a Brita water pitcher. $20. You don't need to be Dilbert to afford that :)

Re:The Perfect Is The Enemy Of The Good (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | about 4 years ago | (#33350446)

totally, i cant stand the municipal water, the taste is vile, 1 pass through my brita (who's filters last far longer than the little timer indicates) and it tastes better than most bottled.

Re:The Perfect Is The Enemy Of The Good (1)

Adaeniel (1315637) | about 4 years ago | (#33350480)

Dude, they put fluoride and chlorine in that - drinking the stuff is just crazy.

"A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual. Certainly without any choice. That's the way your hard-core Commie works."

It had to be said.

Re:The Perfect Is The Enemy Of The Good (1)

GiveBenADollar (1722738) | about 4 years ago | (#33350572)

If you really want to save then throw up some radiant barrier in your attic along with some blown insulation. It's quick, cheap, and easy to do yourself. After that the next step is to get a high efficiency AC unit. Of course before you even do all this it's worthwhile to close every draft in your house. Conserving energy and conserving money can go hand in hand.

Where is the control experiment? (3, Interesting)

afabbro (33948) | about 4 years ago | (#33350172)

Every single problem he mentions would be the same problem if he was building a "non-green" house. Lack of controls convinces him that he's suffering something out of the ordinary.

Lack of controls also tells me that after an eclipse, the reason the sun returns is that we beat tom-toms.

Re:Where is the control experiment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33350236)

Think what you want Brainboy, just as long as you keep beatin. You wouldn't want this to escalate to human sacrifice now would you?

- I make a lot of money off this gig,

Re:Where is the control experiment? (1)

Deadstick (535032) | about 4 years ago | (#33350396)

Only primitives beat tom-toms to make the sun return. The rest of us sound horns to clear traffic jams.

rj

It's all about Living Well with Fewer Resources (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33350190)

This guy is off his rocker and mixes up "Sustainable Housing" with "Natural Building Materials" and overuse of PV panels.

Sustainable housing provides a way to live well without requiring lots of expensive resource use.

There are many styles of housing with many different construction methods to achieve the goal of Good Living with (Considerably) Less Reliance on Resources.

Resources are things like land, energy, water, construction materials, time, money. Good living means different things to different people - maybe a small modest house with no mortgage, maybe having time for family and friends, maybe living in an architectural masterpiece, maybe fitting in, or standing out.

For me good living always has a party now and then, when I have a big fire, leave the lights on, and rock out.

But most of the time, when I am not thinking, a sustainable house helps me live without need for extra heating or cooling energy, has less need for ongoing maintenance, and doesn't cost me that much.

The easiest way to use less resources is to have a beautiful small house that lasts a long time:
http://tinyhouseblog.com/
http://smalllivingjournal.com/

Beauty can come from use of recycled or natural materials.
Straw: http://www.thelaststrawblog.org/2009/08/bit-bale-walls/
Earth: http://www.shac.org.nz/group/whareuku

And may have wavy lines, and be built slowly and experimentally
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthship

Or may be slick and modern:
http://content.usatoday.com/communities/greenhouse/post/2010/07/tiny-home-lives-large/1

Or might be built offsite
http://www.fabprefab.com/fabfiles/fablisthome.htm

And in most cases, sustainable living will mean remodeling existing buildings, and encouraging higher density living - next to friends and culture.
http://www.inhabitat.com/2010/08/03/clip-on-plant-room-adds-green-space-to-apartment-buildings/

Living more sustainably gives me freedom to innovate, and has nothing to do with forcing me to live in a log, as the author seems to think - at least until that idea strikes my fancy.

-Tim
timbAtclaire.org

Going white? (1)

Prostate of Grace (1885118) | about 4 years ago | (#33350208)

Remember to skip the water-wasting lawn. White pebbles are the way to go if you want to save the Earth.

The irony. Caring for vegitation is a waste, and not 'green?'

Re:Going white? (3, Insightful)

twidarkling (1537077) | about 4 years ago | (#33350416)

Most people waste inordinate amounts of water, which takes resources to purify both before and after it's used, since any that isn't absorbed goes to run-off to the sewers, which needs to be treated in most areas. Then you get pesticide use, herbicide use, chemical fertilizers, gas-powered lawnmowers, etc. How the hell can you possibly think a conventional lawn is good for the environment? A properly cared-for garden? Kick-ass. Your average suburban lawn? Fucks up the environment.

Pebbles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33350420)

He did preface his experiences with the warning that they were California centric. When you live in a desert, growing grass is not an environmentally sane thing to do. White pebbles aren't really the best thing to replace your desert lawn with, the guy was trying to be funny. There are a number of desert plants that can make for a beautiful landscape, and in Southern California many of them are also native plants. Unfortunately, in my experience, if you plant native flora, you may also get native fauna visiting your garden; birds outside your window can be rather annoying at daybreak.

The Wall Street Journal? (-1, Flamebait)

Reginald2 (1859758) | about 4 years ago | (#33350240)

Why is the Wall Street Journal featuring this? I mean they're a bunch of peace-nic hippies. I have a lot of trouble buying something that exacerbates green-tech coming from them.
 

Re:The Wall Street Journal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33350346)

Why is the Wall Street Journal featuring this? I mean they're a bunch of peace-nic hippies. I have a lot of trouble buying something that exacerbates green-tech coming from them.

It's because all of their golf courses are drying up this year.

Missouri (1)

retech (1228598) | about 4 years ago | (#33350258)

... where the hippies and lawless build homes. Or something like that. Seriously, the entire state is almost without building codes of any kind. Buy at your own risk, certainly, but build however you feel like it. Lacking his ability to move, why not just build a "green" mobile home. As long as it's not permanent, you can camp on your land and have little to worry about.

What does "green" mean? (4, Insightful)

dominion (3153) | about 4 years ago | (#33350260)

There was a TED talk that outlined recently why building from scratch is rarely "green". Especially when you're talking about building a big, opulent "green" mansion out in the middle of a posh suburb with a huge acreage.

People (especially the wealthy) may not want to hear it, but the greenest option is to renovate an existing structure in an urban center. Just like buying a used 1992 Honda is more "green" than buying a brand new Prius.

Building new may make you feel better about yourself, but it's definitely not the best option for the environment, by far.

Re:What does "green" mean? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33350448)

Dilbert -- er, I mean, Scott Adams -- pointed that out in his article, where he noted that the greenest thing to do was not to build at all.

Re:What does "green" mean? (2, Insightful)

GiveBenADollar (1722738) | about 4 years ago | (#33350524)

But buying a Prius doesn't tell everyone I'm green. If the point of being green was truly to conserve then we would see much different fads. The point of being green, to the masses at least, is to sooth your own conscience while at the same time showing everyone else how 'good' you are.

Styrofoam as the greener alternative? (2, Interesting)

MDillenbeck (1739920) | about 4 years ago | (#33350312)

You want to go extreme green but not buy an existing house? Try a truly modular home [i-domehouse.com] ! I know it is extreme (styrofoam housing?!?), but imaging using a traditional home down payment to buy a small country plot and plop down a bachelor(ette) pad. No mortgage to pay, only property taxes - and then save up until you can build something as your needs grow. If I could do it here in the US, I'd seriously consider it (and if I didn't have a wife who wants a big house, of course).

Re:Styrofoam as the greener alternative? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33350402)

"I know it is extreme (styrofoam housing?!?)"

Having gone through several major hurricane evacuations (including Katrina) and wondering if there'd be a house to come back to, I long ago promised myself that, if I were ever in a position to build my own house, it would be concrete and steel from foundation to rooftop.

I note that the website advertises its "gale resistance." No mention of wind-blown trees. Or flood-borne cars, for that matter.

Its about Resource Use, not Style (2, Informative)

virga (1885184) | about 4 years ago | (#33350316)

This guy is off his rocker and mixes up "Sustainable Housing" with "Natural Building Materials" and overuse of PV panels.

Sustainable housing provides a way to live well without requiring lots of expensive resource use.

There are many styles of housing with many different construction methods to achieve the goal of Good Living with (Considerably) Less Reliance on Resources.

Resources are things like land, energy, water, construction materials, time, money. Good living means different things to different people - maybe a small modest house with no mortgage, maybe having time for family and friends, maybe living in an architectural masterpiece, maybe fitting in, or standing out.

For me good living always has a party now and then, when I have a big fire, leave the lights on, and rock out.

But most of the time, when I am not thinking, a sustainable house helps me live with need for extra heating or cooling energy, has less need for ongoing maintenance, and doesn't cost me that much.

The easiest way to use less resources is to have a beautiful small house that lasts a long time:
http://goldenbayhideaway.co.nz/abodes/little_greenie [goldenbayhideaway.co.nz]
http://tinyhouseblog.com/ [tinyhouseblog.com]
http://smalllivingjournal.com/ [smalllivingjournal.com]

Beauty can come from use of recycled or natural materials.
Straw: http://www.thelaststrawblog.org/2009/08/bit-bale-walls/ [thelaststrawblog.org]
Earth: http://www.shac.org.nz/group/whareuku [shac.org.nz]

And may have wavy lines, and be built slowly and experimentally
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthship [wikipedia.org]

Or may be slick and modern:
http://content.usatoday.com/communities/greenhouse/post/2010/07/tiny-home-lives-large/1 [usatoday.com]

Or might be built offsite
http://www.fabprefab.com/fabfiles/fablisthome.htm [fabprefab.com]

And in most cases, sustainable living will mean remodeling existing buildings, and encouraging higher density living - next to friends and culture.
http://www.inhabitat.com/2010/08/03/clip-on-plant-room-adds-green-space-to-apartment-buildings/ [inhabitat.com]

Living more sustainably gives me freedom to innovate, and has nothing to do with forcing me to live in a log, as the author seems to think - at least until that idea strikes my fancy.

-Tim

I recently met the guy who heads the BAC's online Sustainable Design course. It seems good. http://www.the-bac.edu/x350.xml [the-bac.edu]

Re:Its about Resource Use, not Style (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33350548)

Did you actually even read the summary?

His point was all that stuff is wonderful and cool. HOWEVER, good luck finding anyone to design it. THEN find someone who in your local area would actually build it. THEN get that past your local building commission to give you the permits. The previous three groups are used to and know how their current materials work. What to expect out of them. What sort of load they can take in 2 ft of snow. What is the flash point (important in some areas such as Chicago). They have a good idea what does what. You show up and say you want to use coral for your foundation because you found out it is 10x stronger than cement (I made that up) you would NEVER find anyone who would build it other than yourself, if you could get your local building commission to approve it. In some places you get another group to deal with. Your neighbors. They are worried about what your house is worth because it affects them. So if you end up in a home owners association you can be really screwed.

All of the materials you quote and talk about are good materials. But if you want to build a house with them its going to cost you anywhere from 25-50% more. Just in labor costs and insurance you will need to get as no one will want to be 'first'.

You may be thinking 'oh just hire the dudes who came up with this' or 'there are tons of dudes who will work on this sort of thing'. Guess what they probably do not live where you are or want your house so you will need to pay for them to live nearby (if they are willing to do that).

BTW the dude you think is off his rocker is Scott Adams creator of Dilbert. His background is engineering. So he is being practical which isnt surprising. His other point is things are changing. But it will take 20-30 years before everyone even allows/wants these sorts of buildings.

Wanna Build green? (2, Interesting)

jameskojiro (705701) | about 4 years ago | (#33350324)

Build the whole damn house underground so that you need no AC or heating and grow native grasses over it. Problem solved.

Re:Wanna Build green? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | about 4 years ago | (#33350400)

But... what about the radon?

Re:Wanna Build green? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33350534)

Just hold your breath you silly goose.
You won't inhale any radon and you won't be exhaling carbon dioxide.
Both you and Mother Earth will benefit.

Re:Wanna Build green? (1)

twidarkling (1537077) | about 4 years ago | (#33350438)

Er, unless you're burying it *deep,* you'd still need heating and cooling. And since you're talking about grasses, I'm assuming you're not talking about burying it that deep. Maybe about six feet under?

Re:Wanna Build green? (1)

Greyfox (87712) | about 4 years ago | (#33350564)

Every so often you see an old missile silo on the real estate sites. Other than accessibility to work, that'd be perfect! You get a couple miles of underground tunnels capable of withstanding a nuclear blast (Which is good, because a lot of those missiles are probably still programmed to point at your house) and they've usually removed all the nasty crap (Asbestos, et al) so you don't have to worry about it anymore.

One of those old silos with a pebble bed reactor in it wouldn't need a whole lot more for the next 30 years. Just sayin'! And you'd be able to supply a good bit of the power for a surrounding community with no greenhouse gasses. How cool is that?

Re:Wanna Build green? (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | about 4 years ago | (#33350504)

don't think i've not considered it. I'm still working out the math to see how deep you could bury a quanset hut before the weight began to threaten its structural integrity. I figure the easiest way is to bury a quonset, (a BIG one) and then install living inside one end, and complete the illusion with an astroturf lawn in the other half. double pane reflected angle argon filled skylight tubes to the surface (we want light, not heat). Sure, its like, a 2 million dollar project, but hey, *i can dream*.

Re:Wanna Build green? (1)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | about 4 years ago | (#33350554)

I'm planning on doing exactly that in 40-50 years time. Sure I'll be living in a regular non-green abode until then, but in the grand scheme of things, 40 or 50 years is nothing considering I'll be living underground until the planet goes cold after that.

PHB (1)

fermion (181285) | about 4 years ago | (#33350334)

This seems like PHB logic. PHB hears of a hot product, reads a few articles on it, then demands a similar product from a team that has no experience in it.

I also can believe there are people out there that know how to build this stuff. The trick is to let the experts help meet your needs, not spec the finish product in the design brief. This is another PHB mistake.

For example, roof gardens are not huge deal. One I have seen is to use a shed roof with a low grade, possibly with a partially finished flat roof underneath. There is some erosion of the roof garden, and it needs to be redone occasionally, but it is effective as it will convert the heat into growth rather than transmit.

Also windows are not the enemy. In fact they can be used to make a house more green. Properly place windows can mean that lights need not be used during the day. Roof overhangs can prevent sun from entering in the hottest time, while allowing the sun to warm the house in cooler months. Deciduous Trees can also be shard in the summer, while allowing sun in the winter. In addition, in the winter elements in the house can be allowed to heat during the day and radiate at night.

What I see is that many people want everything to stay the same and be magically green at the same time. We want to use the clothes dryer, even though we have been given a perfectly good sun. We want to have our manicured monoculture lawn, even though common sense tells us that makes not sense. We want use the solutions that in front of our noses because then people would not know how rich we were.

Frankly taking ANY risk is hard! (5, Informative)

BLKMGK (34057) | about 4 years ago | (#33350342)

I did some work on my home - added a second story etc. while living in it - an adventure for sure! I learned some things. For one my contractor was a good ole boy who was so honest it wasn't funny. He did it ALL without a signed contract and he stuck to his original price despite having to wait a YEAR to begin! It took a year to get permits and to get the damned architect to properly do the plans, we waited on weather some too. Jackass architect drew in 2X4 walls and not 2X6, not noticed by me till they were banging nails - grr. The first few sets of plans were a joke and the very first time my contractor caught a GLARING error before he even got out of their office. The architect hated my contractor but my contractor knew how to build and was catching all sorts of errors. Thankfully he worked around the ones in the final plans just fine.

So, I wanted to do some odd things my guy hadn't seen before. For starters I had a specific toilet in mind. You know, a low flow toilet that WORKS! Toto Drake for those wondering - just wish it had more water in the bowl so keep a brush handy. He thought it was silly to want a specific toilet and darn it the thing cost MORE. Wow, it works he finds out. Guess who now has two in HIS home :-) I wanted "solar tubes". What in the world are those he wonders. Well the guy puts them in and wow, lots of LIGHT from outside. My contractor thinks this is pretty cool - don't think he's bought any yet. I wanted a tin roof. Now he's seen these and he's had them done. I had a good quote from a guy but when the guy came out to look over the job he made the cardinal sin of ignoring my contractor - this pissed him off. My contractor got his buddy on the phone and shaved multiple thousands of dollars off the price just to spite this jerk - likely burned a favor. Took the guys maybe two hours to put up that roof too. Rolls off the reel through an extruder and up go the panels onto the roof. I wanted spray foam insulation too. Why would I want that? Well the downstairs leaked like a sieve and I wanted it quiet. Research I found said to spray it under the roof decking and make the attic a controlled space. Contractor and roofing guy not happy, insulation guy not so sure. Govt. studies say this saves money bigtime but if the roof decking gets too hot and fries I'm out big bux. Never mind that Govt study was partially conducted in Florida. I relent but I still have the stuff in my walls and attic - it rocks! My contractor also does Tyvek wrap, rigid foam with foil, and the insulator guys sealed every nook with caulk too. End result is awesome but pricey. Insulator says they never do this in homes but in businesses all the time. A/C and heating guy nearly passed out when I told him what we had for insulation - my heat pump doesn't have to work at all but is sized for efficiency. Tankless hot water heater and softener system. Why would I do that? Well endless hot water for the big tub I had installed and the efficiency is off the chart compared to the previous somewhat new water heater. Literally - the two charts don't overlap the new one is so good! I wanted good windows - Pella is what I chose. All sorts of coatings and stuff. I had gotten a ballpark at a homeshow on price. Pella only sells through regional dealers if you buy their good stuff - price is sky high. My contractor is NOT happy and talks them down a couple hundred per window. Love this guy! I get a seriously good attic trap door with insulation and gasketed seals - everyone thinks I'm nuts till that sucker goes up and seals like a drum. I wanted good temp compensating shower fixtures - I buy them online for way less than local. Plumber freaks at the puzzle he has to build to plumb it. I use a local tile and granite guy instead of a big box store or boutique bath place. I save TONS and the guy is very happy to have my business - I've been back for more stuff twice.

So in the end I saved a bunch and obviously went over budget. Every single time I wanted to do something "odd" I got questioned and quizzed. If you aren't doing it standard eyebrows go up. I didn't do anything really all that odd I thought either. My guy was very good and he employed good people just like himself. I even helped him raise walls and joists. But it was an ordeal to say the least, I regret none of it. Lots of questions about the geek wanting weird things done and having ideas that weren't just like everyone else's stuff though. Whenever you go outside of the norm and especially if you risk the schedule expect some pushback. Contractors are looking to make a living and your weirdness and oddball demands are a threat to their profits if you're not doing your research well enough...

Next time I hope to have a place built from scratch and heck yeah I'll use this contractor!

Re:Frankly taking ANY risk is hard! (1)

zippthorne (748122) | about 4 years ago | (#33350436)

my heat pump doesn't have to work at all but is sized for efficiency.

Erm.. It's one or the other, usually. Are you sure you've got the right size heat pump for your situation?

Re:Frankly taking ANY risk is hard! (1)

BLKMGK (34057) | about 4 years ago | (#33350460)

Funny, I see Scott preaching about radiant barriers. that's different in some aspects to what I wanted to do with spray foam but not so different in the possible issue of cooking the roofing surface and plywood. I may still do this myself with some rigid foil backed foam tacked up under the roof. It wouldn't be super expensive but hot as hell to install! This is one area I really want to investigate in the future. That and spray foaming my damned crawlspace but if I do that access to much of anything under there like wiring, plumbing, and running CAT5 will plummet

Re:Frankly taking ANY risk is hard! (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | about 4 years ago | (#33350544)

where do you live, and is your contractor hiring, this is the kind of person i *want* to work for. (seeing as we're talking my industry here, construction)

Re:Frankly taking ANY risk is hard! (1)

GiveBenADollar (1722738) | about 4 years ago | (#33350566)

Hmm... Those are quite some improvements! One question: What brand of tubular skylights, and how happy are you with the ammount of light and color?

there already is an engineered design. plans too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33350352)

The Tumbleweed houses are green because they're small (footprint included) and use many green materials. http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/ there are blogs too on it, like Tinyhouseblog that reference it often.

Photovoltaic question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33350440)

What sort of system did he install, and how large? I ask because I installed a 1.5kW system at the start of the year and after finally getting the paperwork sorted (now *that* was a marathon effort) I'm receiving power bills in the negative: in other words the power company is now giving me money. In mid-winder, in southern Australia. All it takes is a little care: simple, easy things like turning things off appliances at the power point when you're not using them (or unplugging if you're in a country which inexplicably doesn't have switches at the plug), choosing energy efficient appliances and lighting, being aware of open doors that might let heat out in winter or in in summer, using natural light when available, air-drying your clothes in front of the heater when you're watching TV in the evening rather than using the dryer... pretty basic stuff really. By my conservative estimate based on generation figures for the middle of winter we can expect to receive $400/year effective revenue - the old quarterly bill was typically around $80, new bills are typically around -$20, net saving $100/quarter - on our original investment of $5000. That's a conservatively estimated 8% per anum return, which is enough to repay the original investment in just under 12 years. Sure this will become even more inviting when the price comes down but even in current conditions that's a pretty good rate of return (and I'm not even including the benefits in reduced carbon footprint)!

Other than that: highly entertaining. article.

Having helped build a couple (1)

codepunk (167897) | about 4 years ago | (#33350474)

Having helped build a couple of straw bale constructed homes are the way to go in my opinion. Both of the houses I assisted with take nearly nothing to heat and cool. One of them has been standing for over 18 years now and totally off the grid the entire time. It is not a shoe box house either it is greater than 2000 square feet. In fact the only thing we used in that house that was not recycled was the stucco finish and the slab it sits on everthing else was salvaged. These two homes however where constructed in a rural setting and the building inspector happened to be my first cousin so we did not run into any regulatory crap that would make this sort of construction nearly impossible.

as expected (1)

shentino (1139071) | about 4 years ago | (#33350518)

Sounds like the submitter is suggesting that actually building green is something politics is hostile to.

I would imagine that all the lobbyists from polluting industries don't like green tech either. Big Oil for example would throw a fit if renewable energy got any sort of foothold in the economy...at least until they got patents on it.

Solar specialist (1)

Falconhell (1289630) | about 4 years ago | (#33350526)

Scott would have been better off to have talked to an expert. like this guy;

http://www.emilis.sa.on.net/ [on.net]

Whilst he is a bit of a loony (: he certainly knows his stuff when it comes to low energy homes.

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