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Green Housing Takes Root in Oregon

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the treehugger dept.

United States 388

baldinux writes "I was reading an article in the Portland Tribune which showcased the City of Portland's noteworthy 'Rose House' (1.8mb PDF) project, part of the Office of Sustainable Development and Oregon Department of Energy's plan to encourage sustainable, energy-producing, environmentally-friendly housing for the future, a plan which is gaining national and international attention. The Rose House, at only 800 square feet (approx. 244 sq. meters), is equipped with solar panels and incorporates technologies that recapture lost heat and energy during normal appliance operation, such as ventilation. During peak hours -- when power is at highest demand -- the Rose House could produce surplus energy, feeding kilowatt hours back to the power grid, and `rolling back' the meter -- the power authority's way of purchasing the surplus energy and lessening the burden on comparatively 'dirty' power plants. The article suggests that homes like this could see net power bills as low as $0 per year. The environmental benefits of a lessened burden on centralized, often fossil fuel or nuclear, power generation plants would be considerable."

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388 comments

mchammer (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10295591)

PROPAH!

800 sq ft = 74.322432 m3 (-1, Offtopic)

davejenkins (99111) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295597)

800 sq ft = 74.322432 m3, not 244 (you need to divide by 9, not 3...)
google omnipitam est.

Re:800 sq ft = 74.322432 m3 (4, Informative)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295617)

Oh dear. Isn't it sad that it's impossible to correct a post without making an equaly silly looking error.

You mean 800 sq ft = 74 m2.

P.S. Google? Just use units(1).

Re:800 sq ft = 74.322432 m3 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10295692)

just did a google search if you enter 800sq ft you get 74.322432 m2. If you enter 800sq ft meters you get m3.

Re:800 sq ft = 74.322432 m3 (1)

Infinityis (807294) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295708)

Well, if you're gonna get technical, you gotta go all the way...the carat symbol is what happens when you type an uppercase 6 800 sq. ft. = 74 m^2

Re:800 sq ft = 74.322432 m3 (1, Funny)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295840)

Technical?

You think a units error is "technical"?

And what exactly are "metres xor 2"?

800 sq. ft. = 74m**2.

FORTRAN FOREVER.

(I tried to put ² or ² in my post, but slashcode zaps it).

Re:800 sq ft = 74.322432 m3 (-1, Redundant)

Billobob (532161) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295962)

Oh dear. Isn't it sad that it's impossible to make a post without a silly looking error in the topic...

800 sq ft = 74.322432 m3

Re:800 sq ft = 74.322432 m3 (3, Informative)

bhima (46039) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295640)

I am wondering how it is you went from units of area to units of volume?

Re:800 sq ft = 74.322432 m3 (2, Funny)

hazem (472289) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295721)

It's because we Portlanders are so full of hot air... we'll make any flat surface we're standing on seem to take on 3 dimensions.

Re:800 sq ft = 74.322432 m3 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10295742)

That is because you are converting this: 800 m*ft^2 to m^3

Re:800 sq ft = 74.322432 m3 (1)

aLe-ph-1(sh) (813349) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295695)

800 sq ft = 74.322432 m3, not 244 (you need to divide by 9, not 3...) google omnipitam est. -- Alter so, basically they need a good swedish designer to come in and tear down some walls? ...Cheaper materials through Meson-Quark Model of the Nucleus> Antenna for Visible Light

Size matters (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10295599)

Only 800 sq ft... is that meant to be a selling point?

800 SF? (0, Redundant)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295602)

"The total construction cost of the house was $117,000, or $146 per square foot.
The cost was roughly 15 percent more than a conventional house of the same size, but savings in utilities should make up that difference over time"

That is way off, in the area of Texas I am in you can build a new home for about 70-90 per square foot . Plus it is way small if you plan to have a family.

Re:800 SF? (2, Funny)

Enlarge Your Penis (781779) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295611)

Trailers cost that much nowadays?

Re:800 SF? (1, Funny)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295651)

No. The market price in most areas of Texas is 5,000 for a work needed used trailer (about 700-900 sf) to 30,000 for a new trailer (about 1300-1700 sq).

Land is extra as is the required underground shelter to help protect against tornados.

Re:800 SF? (2, Interesting)

Kiryat Malachi (177258) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295613)

That's because land in Texas is relatively cheap. The real point was the ~15% premium; essentially, in Texas such a home should cost in the 95-120 range, I would bet (depends on relative percentage cost for land, materials, and labor).

800 sq ft is a decent sized one bedroom apartment, or a fairly small two bedroom.

Re:800 SF? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10295621)

"construction cost" ..but seriously, guys, forget green houses. it's all about BIODIESEL.

Re:800 SF? (2, Interesting)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295644)

The price per SQ I quoted didn't include the land because I do not think the price quoted in the article include the cost of land.

Hell, if it was only 15% more they could get very low interest loans from the power company to help pay for the extra. AEP/TXU provides such loans to redo AC with lower energy units and to install heat pumps.

I bet you they are comparing the cost of this home to the cost of a new home, new land and new utility connections. It is in their best interests to play with the numbers so it looks better on paper. Helps with getting more funding/grants.

(This may be rambling as I am tired)

Re:800 SF? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10295663)

Housing cost depends a lot on the local climate. If you live on Hawaii you don't need tripple glass windows...

Re:800 SF? (1)

smallfeet (609452) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295888)

You don't need to run AC in Hawaii? But I agree about location, this house would not be as effective in Seatle or Florida.

Re:800 SF? (3, Interesting)

wine_slob (793174) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295681)


Are they talking about Texas...?

Building costs vary from state to state, county to county and even city to city. Portland, being Oregon's major city, may have higher building costs than the rest of the state, and quite possibly higher than where you are in Texas.

800 sq feet isn't huge, but is plenty of space for an individual or couple without kids and not planning any straight away. At $117k, the mortgage would be close to average rent with lower bills and, unlike rent, payments would be building equity. Sounds like a nice little place to me...

Re:800 SF? (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295693)

Look at the tech going into this house, it can not be built for only a 15% cost increase.

They are playing with the numbers, enron style accounting is the only way I know of to make these numbers work.

Re:800 SF? (4, Interesting)

dasunt (249686) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295806)

That is way off, in the area of Texas I am in you can build a new home for about 70-90 per square foot . Plus [800 sq ft] is way small if you plan to have a family.

It may be small, but it isn't too small. I grew up in a house of roughly 1200 sq ft (excluding basement) with four other siblings. My wife grew up in a house of roughly 800 sq ft with two other siblings.

As long as children share bedrooms, and you forgo the formal dining room, family room, media room, and den, it is doable. Why spend money on rooms you aren't going to use? A living room works just as well as media room/family room. A dining room can be formal or informal. Bedrooms are for quiet study and sleeping, they don't need to be the size of aircraft hangers.

As for the housing costs, locations differ. For example, in Texas, where you are at, I'm guessing 2x4 construction is the norm. In Minnesota, where I am at, 2x6 construction is mandated by building code. In Texas, I'm guessing you can get by with a small crawlspace, or slab-on-grade. In Minnesota, the frost line is so deep that by the time you get below it, its trivial to add a basement. Etc, etc.

Re:800 SF? (4, Interesting)

flacco (324089) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295934)

Why spend money on rooms you aren't going to use?

what he said.

we bought a 2600sf house on 4 acres for myself, my wife, and three pets. probably about 1/4 to 1/3 of it is essentially unused space - she spends most of her time in the 8x22 sun room on the south side, and i spend most of mine in the 12x21 office on the north side. there are a couple rooms that we don't step foot in for weeks. every time i walk by them, the mortgage payment figure slides around before my eyes. quickly followed by the climate control expense.

if i had it to do over again, i would go smaller, more energy-efficient, and put the savings toward more land, (even) more privacy, closer to the ocean, or just plain more leisure time; but this was our first house, and we wanted a "nice" place and didn't really give as much thought to the day-to-day practicalities involved.

my current daydream is to get together with a few other people/couples and go in on a fully self-sustaining vacation house on the shore somewhere. this would allow us to buy land more cheaply (inaccessible, unserviced by utilities, etc), and put the money toward a nice waterfront view and privacy.

the house mentioned in the article doesn't quite fit the bill, since it's designed to be hooked up to the grid and contribute energy back at some times, and draw energy off it during others; but the technologies used would be applicable to a self-sustaining house as well. and any experimentation that drives the initial price of these technologies down is very welcome.

Re:800 SF? (1)

Pieroxy (222434) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295936)

Well, we're not really sure about the surface. It is either 800 sq feet, and 74 sq meter, or 244 sq meter and then a huge 2626 sq feet.

See Here [palmdrive.net] for conversions.

Initial Cost (4, Insightful)

riotstarter (650328) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295610)

One of the reasons many people I know aren't getting things like solar panels installed is that the initial cost is too high.

Re:Initial Cost (3, Informative)

Veridium (752431) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295630)

You know what the real shocker is? The installation cost. It costs as much as the hardware in my area. We're going to do it, but we have to refinance our house in order to afford it. Fricking ouch.

Re:Initial Cost (5, Informative)

AaronGTurner (731883) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295870)

An alternative to solar panels is solar heating, in which water is pumped into solar heated areas. It is less efficient but lower tech (essentially plumbing) and can be cheaper, depending on how much plumbers charge in your area. Essentially you use the solar heating to provide hot water for your house (people like hot water even in summer!) and thus reduce utility costs to heat it. In theory the hot water can be used for other tasks as well, but again at the cost of efficiency, but then the cost of the total solution tends to go back up to the cost of solar panels again. One of the nice things about solar heating is that there isn't a requirement for heavy metals and the like, although if the demand for copper pipes increased dramatically that might be a problem in itself!

At the moment, though, solar heating or panels are expensive for home owners. You can reduce energy use from the grid more cost effectively with other techniques (insulation, shading windows, more efficient boilers, or even just servicing your boiler) at the moment until volume sales reduces solar panel costs.

Some governments (e.g. Germany) have provided tax incentives to install solar solutions, or required that new government buildings include solar solutions where possible. The latter makes a lot of sense as the cost of solar panels on a new office block is a comparatively small proportion of the total cost, but stimulates the demand for solar panels, hopefully then bringing new production onstream.

Another area that people sometimes neglect when working out how much energy they use is watering their garden. Using tap water means using water that has been purified to human drinking standards, with quite a lot of energy input. Collecting rainwater run off from your house and storing it to water your garden directly saves energy. Given the downpours in the UK in August stopping run off going into your garden and flooding it (we had to bail our sunken patio out!) is helpful too! Mind you, since we had 6 inches of rain in 24 hours (I'd left a glass out in the garden) you'd need a huge water butt to cope!

Solar Electricity (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10295615)

I think I've read somewhere that solar panels cost more in energy to create than they ever produce. Is this correct? When I thought about it, it seemed entirely plausible, as there is a lot of steel in there that needs to be welded.

On another note, I've also read that the Chinese were not responsible for chopsticks, although they were responsible for fortune cookies. Apparently chopsticks were invented just 200 years ago in San Francisco.

Can anyone clear this up for me please?

+5 funny (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10295675)

hahahahahahhahah

Re:Solar Electricity (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10295689)

What are the odds of getting everything round the wrong way like that?! You are Backwards-Man!

About chopsticks (2, Funny)

jandersen (462034) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295746)

Yes this is absolutely true. Before that time the Chinese would eat by slamming their face down in the bowl and sucking rice and gravy through their nostrils.

Re:Solar Electricity (5, Informative)

AaronGTurner (731883) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295875)

" I think I've read somewhere that solar panels cost more in energy to create than they ever produce. Is this correct? " No. Current solar panels generally recover the initial investment in 3 to 5 years (depends on how much sun they get, obviously) and last for about 20. They do degrade a bit in performance towards the end of their lives, but will typically provide 3 to 4 times the initial energy investment during their lifetime.

Odd Place, if you think of it. (5, Interesting)

Doomsdaisy (90430) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295622)

Portland relies on hydro power rather than dirty power. Isn't it odd that a region that sells its excess kilowatts to other regions is one of the few places in the US where green housing is seriously considered?

Why don't the regions of the US that rely heavily on coal or nucler power have the same impitus for cleaner alternatives?

MOD PARENT UP!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10295634)

apparently someone in power hasn't realized that "asthma" is an environmental problem.

too bad it's our brothers and sisters who suffer because of their lack of interest in this issue.

Re:Odd Place, if you think of it. (5, Insightful)

Koohoolinn (721622) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295639)

Maybe it's because in those regions politicians are funded by the fossil energy lobby?

Clean power needs natural resources... (1, Informative)

Gopal.V (532678) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295717)

> Portland relies on hydro power rather than dirty power

Hydro power is sometimes more disruptive than nuclear power - you never hear nuclear power causing an earthquake [bbc.co.uk] do you ? .

> Why don't the regions of the US that rely heavily on coal or nucler power have the same impitus for cleaner alternatives ?.

Solar panels, Wind power and tidal power plants need a few natural resources which aren't easily transportable. (or think about solar panels in a hailstorm ?).

The best use of solar panels I've ever seen was for AirConditioning ... if the sun's not out, the air's cool anyway and if it is solar power kicks in . Don't know if it'll work for a bigger scale , unless we have spray on solar panels for those BIG tinted windows.

Re:Clean power needs natural resources... (4, Informative)

Technician (215283) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295891)

The best use of solar panels I've ever seen was for AirConditioning ... if the sun's not out, the air's cool anyway and if it is solar power kicks in . Don't know if it'll work for a bigger scale , unless we have spray on solar panels for those BIG tinted windows.


For the simple answer to cost of instal is check the power requirement for a simple AC unit. Remember they don't like power sags. Now price a solar system big enough to run the AC. Also price the storage battery or co-gen setup to keep it running when a puffy cloud passes by.

For most people, the required expense to run a high power draw device is beyond a home solar instalation. Most solar instalations are for hot water, and enough electric to run a few small energy effecient appliances. Don't expect to run a regular all electric home of just solar. Expect to use an alternate power source for things like the hot water, heating, cooling and clothes dryer. They won't be solar electric.

Another place to check is your monthly electric bill. Our home of 6 in the summer runs about 35 KWH/day. This is about an order of magnetude above a typical home photo-voltaic instalation. Very deep cuts in electric use are in order to even consider moving off grid. I simply don't have enough money or roof space to supply my current electric demand. Things like the dishwasher, electric dryer, AC, electric heat, and un-effecient refrigeration (fridge and freezer) would have to be replaced.

A high effeciency fridge is a serious chunk of change. I've looked into them.

Re:Odd Place, if you think of it. (1)

dabigpaybackski (772131) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295908)

"Portland relies on hydro power rather than dirty power." That depends upon your definition of "dirty." Personally, I find pureed salmon disgusting.

Re:Odd Place, if you think of it. (0)

Hinhule (811436) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295916)

Could be that exporting the kilowatts gives them a better price for them than selling them at home.

Similiar to "Tarot" (-1, Redundant)

aLe-ph-1(sh) (813349) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295627)

story series by the ?nephorious creator of Xanth himself, Mr. Anthony, well, he spoke of a distributed heat model... Now, I am sure that some of you out there have other examples to add.. Cause there is some hard sci-fi out that I am sure kick's this examples What an A__. I am --ApplScrptSudo...

Two (green) thumbs up! (4, Insightful)

Muad (11989) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295629)

This effort is noteworthy. If the construction costs are marginally higher than standard, it should be possible for the governemt to step in with incentives and pick up the tab of the difference. This kind of housing would save indirectly on other costs (power plant construction, pollution, etc) and could therefore qualify as a win-win situation.

Re:Two (green) thumbs up! (1)

morganjharvey (638479) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295672)

If the construction costs are marginally higher than standard, it should be possible for the governemt to step in with incentives and pick up the tab of the difference.

"Should" is the keyword in that sentence. As sad as it is, I really don't see the government, at least not with current policy/spending/etc., creating any sort of incentive here. I mean, if you could theoretically be able to have a power bill of $0, that's not exactly energy(company) friendly.

Just calling it as I see it...

Re:Two (green) thumbs up! (4, Informative)

hazem (472289) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295766)

Right, but even if you're a net-$0 customer, that power they buy from you is power they are selling to someone else (or not having to pay to produce). As long as they're able to sell it to others for more than they pay you (plus costs), then you're still profitable.

The economics change, of course, if a majority of the people employ systems like this. At that point, though the energy you sell back is worth less because so many more people are producing it as well.

I realize this article is about Portland, but its state, Oregon, offers tax incentives for certain energy efficiency improvements:
Oregon Residential Energy Tax Credit Program [state.or.us]

Tax credits are available for the following categories:
appliances
fuel cells
HVAC
Solar
Water Heaters
Wind
Vehicles

"The maximum amount of tax credits a resident may receive per year is $1,000 for appliances including heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment. The maximum amount of tax credits a resident may receive per year is $1,500 for renewable energy equipment such as solar and wind systems. "

If you're smart, you can probably plan part of yoru purchases in December of one year and the rest in Jan of the next. Or possibly spread your project over a few years to maximize the tax break.

Plus, these improvements amount to capital investments in your property which should reduce any taxes incurred from selling a house (though, I think the capital gains tax was eliminated for the owner's residence).

And, such investments done on rental properties will count as costs and will, while reducing your profit, will also reduce the tax on your profit, which could be as high as 40%.

Re:Two (green) thumbs up! (3, Informative)

RKBA (622932) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295816)

"I really don't see the government, at least not with current policy/spending/etc., creating any sort of incentive here."

The State of California will reimburse homeowners who install wind or photovoltaic power approximately 45% of the cost of the system.

In my case, the City of Glendale, California, paid 50% ($21,000) of the total $42,000 cost of having a 4 KW photovoltaic array installed on my roof. What I heard is that they were required to do so by the California Public Utilities Commission. My photovoltaic system is a so-called "net-metered" system that feeds power back into the grid whenever the sun is shining and the system is producing more power than I'm consuming. It provides for almost half of my power usage. During most days my electric meter actually does run backwards.

Since then, I've had "blow-in" insulation installed in the exterior walls of my home (it's an old house and didn't have any insulation in the walls at all!). The odd thing is that although the insulation only cost $1,200 to install, it cut my power bills (most of which are for electric air conditioning during the summer) almost in half - about the same as the photovoltaic system did! I estimate that my electric bills for next year will only be about 25% of what I used to pay.

I don't get this. (2, Informative)

BJH (11355) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295895)

I've been looking into building a home here in Japan, and the only thing that turned up in the article that isn't offered by most construction companies/builders here is the staggered studs. The rest of it (roof insulation, foundation insulation, well-insulated windows, single heating/cooling system for the whole house, 3.3KW solar panel) is pretty much standard, or if it's not standard, it's available as a unexceptional option.

Is the US really that far behind in construction techniques?

Everything green... (5, Interesting)

Infinityis (807294) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295641)

"I'm hearing a lot more interest from buyers who have called up and said they want the greenest house in Portland," Heslam said. "For a growing group of people, rather than having the fanciest house on their street, they'd rather impress their friends by having the greenest house on their street."

It seems more and more that people define their "greenness" as part of their social status. I mean, from hybrid cars to these energy efficient homes, it seems like people have transitioned to environment friendly ways not so much to be friendly to the environment, but rather for others to see.

I suppose part of it shows the philanthropic side of a person, taking care of the poor, defenseless environment that everyone abuses. Part of me wonders, if it were cheap enough for everyone to do, would the wealthy still do it, or would they simply indulge in the excess which they can easily afford?

Re:Everything green... (4, Insightful)

ElvenMonkey (789317) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295711)

It could be interesting to see the results of such a social move. I can percieve that generally, unless there is a major social move on the viewpoint, it would be just a 'fad' amongst the wealthy / high-society. To make it last beyond that would almost require it to be socially unacceptable on a large scale rather than just 'un-cool', to have a house that is not ecologically friendly. Until the technology comes down in price a little thats unlikely to happen. As soon as you start to see solar panels and the like dropping into the price range of the average wage holder, eco-friendly houses are unlikely to be made. The EU currently offers a very nice subsidy for having solar panels fitted, provided you use authorised builders (so as to avoid the cowboy builders cheating the government), but even with the subsidy its still quite an expense and it'll take quite a few years to make the money back in savings from the initial purchase. As pathetic as it really does seem (though I'm as big a culprit as anyone else), the green drive only goes for us so far as it doesn't affect the wallet. A lot of us will stand and say "oh yes, we're eco-friendly" and "why doesn't the government do more towards the environment", but when it affects our wallets we sort-of back away. Many of us could probably afford to put up a panel or two on our houses, but we balk at the cost, ignoring the green benefits.

Re:Everything green... (5, Interesting)

wine_slob (793174) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295784)


My house was built in 1900. There is no insulation in the walls, none under the floors and only about R12 in the attic. I spent the day at the hardware store looking into insulation options and crawling around under my house with a staple gun.

I plan to spend about $300 to bring our attic up to R42+ (they say 45% of heat loss is through the attic). Does that make me a green snob?

Being environmentally conscious/friendly isn't about being hip and it doesn't require spending a fortune. It's pretty easy, really.

If it does come down to social status for some, I'd rather have green homes and hybrids than monster mansions and Hummers, or even big houses and Dodge Rams...

Re:Everything green... (5, Insightful)

16K Ram Pack (690082) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295883)

There's one big benefit if the wealthy do it, even if they are showing off - it will undoubtedly bring down the price for the rest. There's a name for such people in marketing - "early adopters". They are people who get in there with technology and pay for the R&D for the rest. They are the people who don't look at CPU prices and consider bang for buck. They want the best RIGHT NOW.

One thing with prices is that goods are sold based on people partly looking at number of units anticipated.

The more people buying, the more people there will be producing and selling solar panels. Out of this will fall companies producing newer, cheaper and more efficient solar panels. I don't know what the manufacturing process is, but I imagine that production levels are not that massive. If volumes go up, you'll end up with a Toyota or Nissan of solar panels, producing them at high efficiency, employing more automation.

Think about something like LCD screens and the price 3 years ago vs now.

Size matters! (4, Insightful)

pedestrian crossing (802349) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295642)

I think the interesting thing here is that they went for a house that is much smaller than the average American house.

Compared to Europeans, Americans live in -huge- houses, which have to be heated/cooled/cleaned, etc.

A smaller house is cheaper to run and takes a heck of a lot fewer resources than a big house.

Years Behind, (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10295666)

Congrats, U.S.A on realsising there is a green agenda out there. Only problem is, these kind of 'green house' pilots have existed for years in other conutries. Don't be too quick to pat yourselves on the back - and if you want to do something meaningfull in the mean time, why not ratify the Kyoto treaty?

Get the excuses ready for your grandchildren now - save yourselves some soul searching in later years.

Re:Size matters! (2, Funny)

dasunt (249686) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295832)

Compared to Europeans, Americans live in -huge- houses, which have to be heated/cooled/cleaned, etc.

But if we had smaller houses, we'd have to get rid of some of the junk we never use!

Re:Size matters! (2, Informative)

AaronGTurner (731883) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295890)

You can have a large but efficient house, over and above the things that are common to all house construction, large and small (insulation, etc).

For example, open plan houses require more energy input as to be comfortable you have to heat or cool a large area. Separate rooms means that you can have a cold kitchen in winter if you are only going to be spending 5 minutes in their putting milk on your cornflakes. Also you can subdivide large living areas with temporary partitions and open them up when you have large gatherings, and so on.

Also the surface area of the house is important. A small bungalow can end up being less energy efficient than a larger 2 storey house.

Re:Size matters! (0, Flamebait)

Analogy Man (601298) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295926)

With a bigger house I can have more STUFF. Then of course I need a bigger SUV to haul my STUFF around. Then I stuff my ever expanding ass in my BIG chair and watch my BIG TV.

The American way...ain't it beautiful?

Greenhousing? that means something different here (3, Funny)

dj42 (765300) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295647)

Where I come from, "greenhousing" is the term used when you get a bunch of people in a car, roll up the windows and smoke ridiculous amounts of pot, filling the inside with smoke.

Profits? (1)

twenty-exty-six (772817) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295659)

The environmental benefits of a lessened burden on centralized, often fossil fuel or nuclear, power generation plants would be considerable.

Power companies would be sure to get upset over this. The adoption of these houses would destroy their profits. In our society, unfortunately, economic benefits take priority over environmental benefits.

Okay. So where's the News? (2, Informative)

mx.2000 (788662) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295669)

What's new about this stuff?

I've seen "passive" houses being built for years (in Europe).

Maybe 6 years ago this would have been kind of innovative. But in the year 2004? C'mon!

greenest house is now mine ! (1, Funny)

phreakv6 (760152) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295678)

I have now got the greenest house having painted it with an RGB of #00FF00.

Rolling back the meter ?. (2, Interesting)

Gopal.V (532678) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295679)

From the little EE knowledge I have (I'm a CS Major , but the girls were mostly in EE, so ..) , I don't think rolling back the meter's a possible option. Power grids supply voltage at high voltages and use transformers to step it down to reduce transmission losses. Sending current the wrong way doesn't seem to be a valid option to be noticeable (yeah, maybe a bewoulf cluster of these might *snicker*) .

What is more likely is to have a neighbourhood power distribution inside your local transformer loop and feed the it from your production via the same plug. That too might confuse the shock protection circuit breakers which apparently measure current levels between the two wires to make sure no equipment is earthing the power. Also the power man's in for a shock when he finds that there are 200 power sources he has to disconnect to pull a new line off the main cable . Technical difficulties in implementing this are too high , or we'd already be generating our own electricity. (btw, my desk lamp is powered by a solar panel and a rechargeable battery and that's only because my city scheduled a half-hour power cut daily).

Feed the power grid back is a pipe dream at least in the Indian power situation. But oregon might be different after all .... If you need me I'll be in my backyward feeding the power grid with my cold fusion powered giant hamster wheel.

Re:Rolling back the meter ?. (2, Informative)

Chagrin (128939) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295854)

This is not at all infeasible and is done quite frequently. It's not very economical though as the power company will only pay back at wholesale rates.

Yes, the power man would be in for a shock if the loads weren't properly handled. The power company will require that a cut-off switch (to cut output when the power goes out) be installed for any grid-tie setups.

Doesn't work like that. (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295899)

There is a lot of sophisticated switching and matching equipment. There's a bit more to it than simply winding up your genny and watching the meter run the other way.

The future... (4, Insightful)

here4fun (813136) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295696)

I doubt many people would want to live in 800 square foot houses if given a choice. Most people who make money like to build big gigantic houses. Some even like to go into well established neighborhoods, buy an older smaller house, tear it down, and build their McMansion.

I think the real problem humanity will face is over population. The world is staying the same size, but there are more people. How much longer can people keep cutting down trees, without replacing them, until the price of lumber gets so high that only a small amount of people will be able to afford it. I remember when I was in highschool, the population of the USA was 250 million, and in the papers a few weeks ago it referenced the population at 300 million. If that is correct, we grew by 50 million people in the past 15 years. What will happen in the next 50 years? Is it possible we will pass the half a billion mark? Will we become the next India?

What people should think about is economics. The world is becomming a divided place. Even in the USA. I remember reading an article in school which showed that the top 1% of people in the USA owned 10% of the wealth around the time of the revolution. Today 1% of the USA owns more than 40% of all the wealth. The papers also had an article that Bush wants to eliminate overtime pay. That means buisness will be able to force people to work more hours, without the detterant of paying time_and_a_half. Does that mean we will see 50 hour work weeks and less to show for it? But before anyone decides to jump on the democratic bandwagon, they are not that much better. Both the republican and democratic party are subject to the same rules of the game, the same need to raise moeny and bow to the lobbists. We need a new breed of politicians, but to get them, we need to pay attention and not vote the way we pick what fast food resturan to eat lunch at.

While solar panels might sound cool, it is like a band-aid on a wound to the neck. I don't know what the anwser is. We can't stop people from having kids. We can try and conserve natural resources, but eventually the number of people will be more than the planet can support.

What scares me is the fear that 90% of the population will be pushed into slave like conditions, while the richest 10% live relativly well, even in the worst of conditions. They will hire some of the poor, train them as police or military, and protect the "public peace". Think of India, where even with the poverty, a small percentage of the people live luxeriously, and the rest are controlled by a somewhat corrupt police force and politicians. The rest live on the streat and the have's walk past them, sometimes looking at the have-nots as human garbage, but most of the time trying not to make eye contact.

Social Engineering (4, Insightful)

pedestrian crossing (802349) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295723)

I doubt many people would want to live in 800 square foot houses if given a choice. Most people who make money like to build big gigantic houses. Some even like to go into well established neighborhoods, buy an older smaller house, tear it down, and build their McMansion.

I think the real problem humanity will face is over population.

The problem isn't so much overpopulation. The problem is that a small segment of the world's population has acquired a taste for a lifestyle that uses a disproportionate amount of resources.

People need to start choosing to live in a smaller house, driving a smaller car.

The real change will require social engineering on a massive scale.

Imagine if it was considered patriotic (instead of crazy/granola) to use fewer/alternate resources!

Re:live in a smaller house, driving a smaller car. (0)

zmollusc (763634) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295764)

This will solve the overpopulation problem how? Well, maybe when the houses are smaller in volume than the people who are crammed into them.

Re:live in a smaller house, driving a smaller car. (4, Insightful)

pedestrian crossing (802349) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295782)

I disagree that overpopulation is the problem, at least in the medium term. I think the problem is overconsumption, especially by Americans, and that is the issue addressed by the original article.

Re:Social Engineering (3, Insightful)

hazem (472289) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295810)

Imagine if it was considered patriotic (instead of crazy/granola) to use fewer/alternate resources!

Yeah... that in a country, where after getting attacked, the President tells people to "go shopping".

Re:Social Engineering (1)

dabigpaybackski (772131) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295939)

"Imagine if it was considered patriotic (instead of crazy/granola) to use fewer/alternate resources!" Think back a ways. During World War II, there were shortages and rationing brought on by the war effort. Propaganda messages instructed the public to avoid unnecessary car trips, and everybody with a back yard had a "victory garden." Now, if you could get people to do this shit without needing a war to do it...

Re:The future... (4, Informative)

hazem (472289) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295793)

The best solution is to educate the world. Educated people tend to have more options and fewer babies.

The last I heard, Italy has negative native population growth and its overall population growth is only positive when immigration is taken into account. And while the US has positive native population growth, a great deal of the overall growh is also from immigration.

It probably has to do with more guys getting educated and becoming computer geeks. Their chance of reproducing then drops precipitously because they spend all their time on slashdot.

Re:The future... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10295897)

(goo-goo, hmm.)

learn - solutions are all there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10295867)

Maybe overpopulation can stop when convincing the people that having one child is enough(...). This works fine in North American and European countries.

Giving development aid and producing overpopulation in return is not a good idea.

Elektricity is only half part - oil/gas for heating the other.

There are so many working solutions for replacing most amount of dirty engergy production on hand and well tested and documented already.

How long until we suffer from not applying these?

Look for cross flow heat exchanger, minergie, wind energy, heat pump, thermowell and of course solar power.

Re:The future... (1)

AaronGTurner (731883) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295900)

" I doubt many people would want to live in 800 square foot houses if given a choice."

It's about the standard size for the 'Universal' house design in the UK in the interwar period, and also about the size of typical terraced houses from the 1880-1914 period too. Our house dates from 1962 and has smaller base plan than houses build in 1918-39, but has been extended to about 1000 square feet.

hippie heating! (4, Interesting)

Deanalator (806515) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295707)

The building that I live in at Portland State University [pdx.edu] is a "green rated" [green-rated.org] building. Besides all the recirculated heat etc, it also uses collected rain water to do things like flush the pottys.

One of the advantages I guess to living in a state with dirt cheap electricity and *way* too much water :-/

Re:hippie heating! (1)

AaronGTurner (731883) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295905)

" I doubt many people would want to live in 800 square foot houses if given a choice."

Do you have any links for this specifically, as I don't see the need to flush toilets with water you could drink. Saying this our cats insist on drinking toilet water preferentially to fresh water in their water dish for some reason, but then they might like rain water more as they also seem to think rain water from a muddy puddle is especially delicious.

Cost of the Solar Cells? (2, Interesting)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295718)

I am not fully up on solar cell tech so these numbers may be wrong but it appears that a solar cell setup costs between $5000 - $7000 per KWH. This being a 3.3 KW setup would place the cost of the solar cells alone at 15,000 - 21,000.

I just do not see how they can build the house for what they are saying they can. I also do not understand why they had to get a 15,000 grant to build a home that costs nothing to heat/cool.

Waste heat to electricity. (3, Interesting)

Mortiss (812218) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295727)

To further increase eco-friendliness of this house they should also consider equipping it with materials that convert waste heat directly to electricity.

http://archive.newscientist.com/secure/article/art icle.jsp?rp=1&id=mg18324635.100 [newscientist.com](Subscription required)

Although the technology is still in its early stages , it looks promising enaugh to reduce energy waste in households.

Re:Waste heat to electricity. (1)

AaronGTurner (731883) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295910)

One thing to do is compost. We compost as much as we can (we need a second compost bin now, though, as we don't use the compost quickly enough).

One issue we have with the result of compost (a very lush soil) is that we can only really put in household waste and grass clippings as garden waste often contains weed seeds. If anyone knows of a way to either kill off those weed seeds, or a use to put weed seed containing composted waste to I'd been keen to hear about it.

Passive heating = the HURD of architecture (4, Insightful)

firefarter (307327) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295735)

My gf told me that passive heating in houses is being offered for years and years. The technology is there - it just won't catch on.
Why? Because, for one, you can't even open a window to let fresh air in - it would disrupt the heat cycle. Oh - and that people don't feel comfortable with styrofoam walls. And that the kitchens are usually in the middle and have no ceiling, etc...

The Endless Possibilities (5, Insightful)

phobos13013 (813040) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295762)

We could go on all day about how easy (for a few bucks extra initial) it would be to make our living structures more environmentally friendly. We are demanding the corporations who make our products to clean up so it is only fair that we do the same. Actually its imperative. For those who think an 800 sq ft home isnt large enough for a family of five or whatever, perhaps you need to realize that jus because you have the ability to build 10,000 sq ft homes and drive 5 metric ton cars (yes we all saw the Hummer replacement marketed on TV & the internet this week) [i4u.com] doesnt mean we SHOULD!

There are endless techniques that we can integrate into new homes, many of which should be REQUIRED, including solar panels which are yes very expensive now and not very efficient in energy producing terms, but what about new designs for homes including bigger windows and skylights using low emissivity glass [atofinachemicals.com]. There have been advancements in new heating technologies like using heat tapped from the Earth's Core [wired.com], and using renewed and recylced building materials. We have the tech, lets put it to use!

Re:The Endless Possibilities (1)

AaronGTurner (731883) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295917)

There's a house in Denmark that is actually energy positive (it is a net exporter of energy) although I doubt that a house of its design is actually practical for mass production.

Hello America (4, Informative)

Noizemonger (665926) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295776)

Tis is ridiculous. We had that kind of houses for YEARS in europe, at least in germany. And its not a niche-market around here but mainstream. Due to the fact that energy and heating costs are very high in germany a lot of people consider a "low-energy-house" or even a "zero-energy-House". But im happy to see that america finally found out about some enviromentally sound ideas from last century. Whats next cleaner air? Less fuel? Kyoto?

Staggered Stud Construction (1)

jonbrewer (11894) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295792)

I'd be interested to hear comments on staggered stud construction. I had not heard of the technique until I RTFA. Google finds:

http://www.mnpower.com/energyhome/technology/she ll .html

"Staggered stud construction eliminates the thermal bridging of wall studs and allows space for a high density blown cellulose insulation giving the walls and R-Value of 30. Wall studs are placed at 24" on-center with a single top plate. The roof trusses are lined up directly over the wall studs."

Does anyone do this? Do carpenters / framers anywhere know how to do this the right way?

Solar power and storage technology (2, Informative)

Zog The Undeniable (632031) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295809)

One of the big problems with mains electric power is that it can't easily be stored. This means that wind/wave/solar power all need backup fossil or nuclear capacity for when it's not windy or sunny. Batteries are bulky (look in the basement of your data center), contain nasty chemicals, are expensive and have a short life. Maybe the answer is a few more schemes like Dinorwig [snowdonialtd.org]? This was originally conceived as a means of responding instantly to spikes in demand, but fundamentally it's a clever way of storing excess power from the grid and releasing it later. How much would it cost to hollow out a few of the Rocky Mountains?

How green are photovoltaics? (3, Insightful)

martinde (137088) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295815)

I like the idea of distributed solar power generation for a variety of reasons. I think it's one of the only ways that (once installed) has minimal environmental impact, assuming that you're going to build a house in "that spot" either way.
To build fields of solar arrays or mirrors in the desert wrecks the desert, and then you have to deal with transmission line losses which are significant. Same problems with wind, geothermal, hydro, and tidal power - you wreck the environment you install them in to some degree and then you pay transmission line inefficiencies.

And often in these articles they don't talk about the cost of photovoltaics, either. They are semiconductors, which take larges amounts of energy to produce, and require some really nasty chemicals to process as well. So for every house you build with a photovoltaic roof, you've got to deal with those issues, which means it's going to take some time before you net any power or positive environmental impact.

There was an article in Discover Magazine last year about a company who was making a solar power generator based on a Stirling engine and they were claiming some impressive efficiencies. Manufacturing these was an issue of machining which can be made pretty clean - I thought that this was a cool idea. (I'd link to it but I'm in lynx right now and don't feel like googling it - sorry!)

Also you've got the issue of what to do at night. Of course hooking to the grid takes care of that right now but it means that you're relying on "dirty" power at night, and once enough people switch to this model then that would be all the dirty power was there for. Of course, it's sunny somewhere all of the time but then you've got transmission line issues. Putting batteries in your basement is an option, but most of those technologies are nasty too - lots of heavy metals to deal with. "My" solution for that - flywheel storage... I don't know if anyone is seriously working on that one though.

A square foot is _how_ big, exactly? (1)

hklygre (4275) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295827)

You have big feet.

If one foot is 30.48 cm, that makes one square foot 929.03 cm^2, which again makes one m^2 approx. 10.76 ft^2, which again makes 800 ft^2 approx 74.3 m^2. Which is quite a bit less than 244 m^2.

Portland rocks! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10295839)

Portland is clearly the coolest city in the United States.

/. negator (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10295850)

Man you people are so damn negative some times. This project is realy awesome since Oregon is a very beutiful place and housing near Portland is VERY expensive. I hope to see work like this expanded.

Stupid (3, Insightful)

N8F8 (4562) | more than 9 years ago | (#10295957)

If you build any house less than 2000 SQ. FT. these days you wouldn't find a buyer. This is where the greenies allways miss the mark. Build the same house with modern amentities (including elbow room) and you may get someone to listen.

Hell, just publish easy steps for the new homebuilder and people will listen. I'm 2/3 the way into building a new house. Months ago I tried to have Slashdot run a "Ask Slashdot" on this very issue. It was rejected , of course.

Here is what I actually did: thermal barrier in the attic, manifold water system, insulated all interior walls, install only one waterheater, cathedral ceilings, return-air ductign in all major rooms and high SEER air conditioning system. Wish I could have found other (affordable) ways to save energy.
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