I have been contemplating a very sustainable desert community. They could save lots of money and time if they built dwellings out of used cargo shipping containers. But how to keep them cool in the desert? Green Roofs.
The shipping containers would be cheap. They could be cleaned and refurbished to become modular housing components. And by putting a green roof on top, they could keep the dwelling in the cool shade. The containers would have the structural strength to support a green roof since they were designed to be stacked like blocks.
Building soil filled planter boxes on the sides would provide further shade, some insulation, and even thermal mass effects. That last aspect is where the sheer volume of dirt would keep the dwelling cooler during the hottest part of the day and warmer at night.
As we face this financial crisis, we can watch for at least one positive effect from an environmental standpoint: less sprawl.
Both the lending mechanisms and the insurance industry have been hurt badly. This will result in more caution on the part of developers, their investors, and their customers. They will build fewer developments due to the comparative lack of available funds. And where they do build, they will find less demand from home buyers whose agenda coincides more and more with the sustainable development movement:
– The migration of population away from remote suburbs towards more dense urban centers will mean the jobs will follow.
– If there’s too much of a threat from floods, forest fires, hurricanes, or coastal erosion, then insurance will either be too expensive or totally unavailable.
So as the population moves from owning to renting, the units closer to jobs will be in higher demand. The developers will build denser neighborhoods with shorter commutes and less insurance risks from climate change effects. And the wise home-buyer will be seeking out more sustainable homes, giving the green developer a market advantage.
And with enough of a sustainability sentiment in government, we might even see additional market incentives through a carbon market or tax breaks for LEED homes.
There will be personal hardship for many, and I don’t mean to minimize or dismiss the impending struggles of those who will suffer (probably including myself). But I am pleased that some of the market mechanisms seem to be making the more sustainable choices coincide with financial wisdom.
Highlights starting from: 6:28 12:10 16:05 21:35
Quest, a science program that airs on KQED public television in San Francisco, recently ran a program featuring three Bay Area individuals whose homes make extensive use of alternative energy. Here is a summary. Chris Beaudouin, a resident of the Castro district, at the recommendation of California’s Department of the Environment, contacted Blue Green Pacific, the wind generation start-up company of another San Francisco resident, Todd Pelman, who is a marine and energy engineer. Soon to be on top of Chris’s garage (only one has been installed), looking as he describes it like two pieces of sculpture, will be two vertical wind turbines. He is anticipating that his experiment with micro-wind generation will reduce his energy bill 20-30%. The target price for one of the systems is $5000 dollars. Pelman estimates the payback period to be 8-10 years. Gavin Newsom, recently encouraged home owners to experiment with wind energy.
The second home featured is the home of Lisa and Michael Rubenstein, a 6,000 sf single level home in Hillsborough. Despite its size, the average monthly energy bill is $8. The Rubensteins wanted their dream home to be as sustainable as possible and so invested in a geothermal system as well as PV cells. The home is 41 percent more efficient than state Build It Green Standards. (The home was built before a residential LEED program was in place.) Other eco-friendly measures include: graywater recycling, reclaimed wood floor, insulation made from recycled denim, dual flush toilets, and fly-ash concrete.
The third home was the remodeled Victorian home of Dixon Beatty and Stephanie Parrot. They remodeled the home to use solar thermal energy to provide hot water and heat to their house and photovoltaic cells to meet most of their electricity needs.
The answers may surprise you and give you hope for cleaner and more sustainable energy. From Al Gore’s We campaign: http://quiz.wecansolveit.org/
Taking the quiz, meeting Gore’s call for supplying all of our energy from non polluting sources within 10 years seems not only possible but imperative.
“The Prix Pictet is a major new global prize in photography that focuses on perhaps the greatest single issue of the twenty-first century: sustainability. The award is sponsored by Pictet & Cie, in association with the Financial Times.” The shortlist for this year’s award has just been announced.
The theme for this year is water. The elements that demonstrates first the effects of global warming through increased droughts and floods, contamination, and rising sea levels.