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  1. #1
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    Sustainable housing

    We often talk about sustainable living and I have often been interested in my carbon foot print. After getting rid of one of our cars I now have a carbon foot print much smaller than most people I know. But we have been planning on visiting a place in Taos that I saw on TV that seems like a good idea.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/ear...ry?id=12501438

    http://www.earthship.org/

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    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    I see a lot of this on TV... new "green" designs.

    My first thought is that the greenest approach would be to improve ( or maybe even just leave as is...) some already existing.

    In fact, a lot of older housing could be considered "green" because they're generally a lot smaller than newer homes. Less space to heat or cool.

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    It may have a utility bill of $100 per year but it costs $400,000 to build and it's on an acre of land in the middle of nowhere. When they start building them on 25 foot frontages on Main Street, then it will really be green

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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    I see a lot of this on TV... new "green" designs.

    My first thought is that the greenest approach would be to improve ( or maybe even just leave as is...) some already existing.

    In fact, a lot of older housing could be considered "green" because they're generally a lot smaller than newer homes. Less space to heat or cool.
    They have some smaller lots if you research the site. Some start as low as 40k in the development. But you get to live off of the grid. I took a trip to Kenya with some people to introduce some of the building methods mentioned here. The cost is considerably less when people do their own work. But look what it has. They grow their own food, provide their own power and even plan for their own sewage. We have often talked about the effects of how we live on the earth and nothing we have built to date is as green using steel, concrete, and public utilities.

    I am just saying main street will never be green using coal and oil to generate power. And city goveernments aren't in the position to add solar, water collectors and grey water plant hydration. Right now my place is paid for and my utility bills are pretty small but if things changed they are already doing what many of us can only dream of doing.

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    There's a book on this I read lately.. Starts out by noting that per capita, the most environmentally friendly place in America by far was New York City. NYC residents have a tiny environmental footprint compared to everyone else.
    If you want to go green, go live in an existing place in downtown and go carfree. Unless you're willing to go all the way to Amish, it doesn't get much better than that. Building a place eats power and a lot of those green designs are also huge examples of exurban sprawl. Also, they use a lot of huge, poorly insulated windows. Windmills and solar cells do NOT lower consumption of coal, and you cannot buy your way to being ecofriendly.
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    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
    They have some smaller lots if you research the site.
    ...
    I am just saying main street will never be green using coal and oil to generate power.
    Yes, good points. Sometimes with existing housing, you can achieve smaller lot size by doing in-fill housing. This can mean a lot of things, but turning garages and basements into apartments sort of achieves this effect.

    Sorry... I'm not trying to dampen you enthusiasm for green housing, but I am concerned when I see people destroying perfectly functional housing to achieve a "green" goal. Often, I suspect, the net energy saved is minimal. Or even negative.

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    The buildings themselves may be marvels of green engineering, but there just isn't enough land for everybody to live on the land. So if this kind of housing is used for farmers, and game wardens, and border patrol officers, and even people who work from home and only need to go into town once a week, there will be ecologic benefits. But if all the million plus residents of Albuquerque and the other cities of New Mexico all tried to get out of town and live this way, it would destroy the desert with sprawl.
    Last edited by cooker; 05-31-11 at 12:43 PM.

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    The problem as I see it is we are just as resistant to trying to change ourliving styles as we are of changing our transportation styles.

    If you will follow my reasoning for a moment you can see I am only interested in looking at things that are happening not things I wish would happen. (Understand I come from a person with an American Indian, traditional African and Australian aboriginal perspective as far as living with nature goes.)

    Roody posted not long ago that for the first time our urban population now out numbers our non urban population. Checking that out I discovered he is correct and that just over 50 percent claim to be urban dwellers. However using the statistics from the EPA and other government agencies our urban areas use between 73 and 75 percent of ouravailable energy. Every urban house holdget 100 percent of their energy from the grid and urban dwellers can do very little about it individually.



    Green communities can produce enough energy to sustain them and if you read some of the things on one of the sites their construction is already taking place all over the world. But even if they could only produce 75 percent of their energy needs that is 100 percent more than moving to downtown anywhere.

    These communities also collect their own water and process their own waste. So far that kind of conservation simply isn’t available in any major urban area. It also seems as if many of these people work from home as cyber commuters and business people. They also tend to grow more of their own food precluding putting additional strain on our food supply and the necessity to use fuel oil to truck in food.



    Now living with nature rather than fighting it like the buildings in Chicago may or may not be of interest to some but I find it fascinating. Chicago buildings have actually changed the wind pattern in the area.



    Just where I am coming from.
    Last edited by Robert Foster; 05-29-11 at 02:03 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
    Green communities can produce enough energy to sustain them ...
    These communities also collect their own water and process their own waste....
    They also tend to grow more of their own food precluding putting additional strain on our food supply and the necessity to use fuel oil to truck in food...
    Now living with nature rather than fighting it like the buildings in Chicago may or may not be of interest to some but I find it fascinating.
    This is fine for a relatively small population, but can you scale it up to accomodate 300 million Americans?

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    Quote Originally Posted by cooker View Post
    This is fine for a relatively small population, but can you scale it up to accomodate 300 million Americans?
    Don't know if it could be scaled anywhere but a few states but in New Mexico if you spread people out there would only be 15 per square mile. Everyone would get 117 square yards and if they used this building system they would produce their own food and power.

    I am only talking about being green from a sustainable concept. We have discussed this before and many have concluded society as we now see it is not sustainable. Like I said right now 50+ percent of our population is urban and it used more than 50 percent of our energy. Traditional construction will continue to tap into the grid till at some point the grid will not be able to support the population. From our own governemt information half of our energy is used in transportation and that leaves half to be used to power our living and industry. It is hard to see a 50+ percent of the population using 73-75 percent of that available energy as being green, having a low carbon foot print or being earth friendly unless something changes.

    I admit I am in a good position in that I can consider this as a possible alternative way of living. At face value once I have cut my transportation energy use to a minimum it seems far more earth friendly to look into a green community than to move to a concrete, glass, and steel energy user. Is it any more radical to ask people to look at there energy useage because of where and how they live as opposed to how they get to work?

    But more specifically aren't many of our suggestions about organic living better addressed by green communities rather than asphalt, glass, steel and concrete? maybe not during our working years but what about after we retire or reach a place in life where we no longer have to commute or pay rent?

    Maybe I should just ask if there is a better way to escape the rat race and live off of the grid?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
    Everyone would get 117 square yards and if they used this building system they would produce their own food and power.
    ...
    Like I said right now 50+ percent of our population is urban and it used more than 50 percent of our energy. Traditional construction will continue to tap into the grid till at some point the grid will not be able to support the population. From our own governemt information half of our energy is used in transportation and that leaves half to be used to power our living and industry. It is hard to see a 50+ percent of the population using 73-75 percent of that available energy as being green, having a low carbon foot print or being earth friendly unless something changes.
    The transportation costs are the potential achilles heel. If all these settlers stayed home most of the time, then perhaps they would realize the environmental benefits promised. But you spread people out at 15 per square mile, and a big concern would be all the roads and car travel that might generate. For the food they don't grow themselves, it's going to be a pretty inefficient and expensive distribution system getting it to all those spread out residences, compared to trucking stuff to a farmers' market in a downtown site, where people can carry it home on foot.
    Last edited by cooker; 05-29-11 at 08:05 PM.

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    Size Matters

    I think the size of the housing is more important than where it is located when it comes to sustainability. The materials matter less too. Two-thousand square feet of any type of house will use plenty of energy in its construction and its daily operation. A three-hundred square foot house would use so much less materials and energy that it would pay for itself in saved energy costs.

    I've read about people making housing out of tires stuffed with dirt for thirty-five years. The Earthship people were a couple of hucksters a while back. The guy did the talking and his super hot ex-model wife did the showmanship around their personal expensive Earthship house. They would take donations constantly while claiming to run a foundation to build communities. They built about ten houses in twelve years. Maybe they're finally getting around to it in an effort to avoid going to jail for fraud.

    Their ideas (though not original) are very environmentally friendly. Their house plans are extremely expensive for what you get. I think you would get a better deal from Monolithic Domes or Cal-Earth. Just build your own greenhouse next door or attach one to your house.

    The whole Tumbleweed Housing idea is far more environmentally friendly for a single person or a couple. The footprint is tiny. The house is portable. It uses a tiny amount of energy and could easily be solar powered. It could also be made from recycled materials if one were inclined to seek such things. My dream is to make something similar but not as tall. The Tumbleweed designs are thirteen and a half feet high. That limits their portability because not all highways have such a high clearance at overpasses.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
    Roody posted not long ago that for the first time our urban population now out numbers our non urban population. Checking that out I discovered he is correct and that just over 50 percent claim to be urban dwellers. However using the statistics from the EPA and other government agencies our urban areas use between 73 and 75 percent of our available energy. Every urban house holdget 100 percent of their energy from the grid and urban dwellers can do very little about it individually.
    I can assure you that a large number of the people in the areas the EPA consider "urban"do not consider themselves to be urban, much in the same way that most people consider themselves to be "middle class", which actually has a definition that does not encompass most people. (In short, to be "middle class", you must A: be able to live entirely on your investments and such without going to work, and B: you have to hire employees for some reason. That's what "Middle Class" MEANS.)
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    That's the strangest definition of middle class I've ever seen. The more common definition is something like:
    Upper class (top 1%, Ivy league educated, heirs, celebrities, household income >$500,000, multi-millionaires and billionaires)
    Upper middle class (next 15%, highly educated, professionals and upper management with a high degree of autonomy, household income >$100,000, good amount of assets, generally on track to be millionaires)
    Lower middle class (next 30%, college educated or skilled labor, white collar technical or mid-level management some some autonomy, household income >$50,000, little assets outside 401k and the home)
    Working class (next 40%, high school or some college or semi-skilled, blue and pink collar jobs in service, clerical, and labor with little autonomy, household income >$30,000, no assets.
    Working poor (some high school, unskilled McJobs paying little more than minimum wage)
    Poor (At most limited participation in the workforce, completely dependent on government transfers and charity)

    There's a lot of overlap there. For example, a family relying on the income of a janitor making $10 an hour would be poor while if the wife also worked at a gas station they'd be working poor. A lawyer working in public interest sector (starting salary of 30k) would usually be considered either upper or lower middle class rather than working class (as their income would indicate) because they are highly educated and have a great deal of autonomy.

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    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malloric View Post
    Working class (next 40%, high school or some college or semi-skilled, blue and pink collar jobs in service, clerical, and labor with little autonomy, household income >$30,000, no assets.
    What country is this? US?

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
    [Roody posted not long ago that for the first time our urban population now out numbers our non urban population. Checking that out I discovered he is correct and that just over 50 percent claim to be urban dwellers. However using the statistics from the EPA and other government agencies our urban areas use between 73 and 75 percent of ouravailable energy. Every urban house holdget 100 percent of their energy from the grid and urban dwellers can do very little about it individually.
    I said that 50 per cent of the entire world's population is now urban. The US is very much over 50 % urban--more like 85 % IIRC. So you might have to recalculate your estimate of the portion of energy that is used by urbanites. Scientists who study land use are now saying that urban living is more efficient (and therefore "greener") on a per capita basis.



    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
    [ Green communities can produce enough energy to sustain them and if you read some of the things on one of the sites their construction is already taking place all over the world. But even if they could only produce 75 percent of their energy needs that is 100 percent more than moving to downtown anywhere.
    They produce all of their own energy only if they never imoport anything. If they buy food at a store, or order machine parts and building supplies, they are clearly NOT energy independant. Did the community you're talking about grow/produce everything they use.

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
    These communities also collect their own water and process their own waste. So far that kind of conservation simply isn’t available in any major urban area. ....
    Actually, all communities in America already do that. My city treats its sewage, removing (most) human waste, and discharges the almost clean water back into the Grand River. then the people of Grand Rapids get to reuse our water a couple days after we're done with it.
    Last edited by Roody; 05-30-11 at 04:36 PM.


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    I think many parrales can be drawn between the world of cyling and the sustainable housing issue. Just like with bikes, there is no "one" bike that is perfect for everyone around the world.

    Between Snow-bikes, single speed work bikes, Dutch bikes, BMX and Hybrids and road bikes(just to name a few, don't be insulted if I left out "your" type of bike), are ussally really good at some areas cycling but lack in other(comfort, distance, speed, weight).

    Pre-fab homes, cabin kits, container homes, yurts, cob&straw bale, modern SPI panel, domes, tiny on a trailer, and mobile homes, all illustrate the need to account for the pluses and a learn how to deal with a list of compromises. An earth-ship would be great in the desert with a bunch of free labor from friends to build it fast ideally with free(recycled) material, but odd and not suited to the cold climates(-35c at times) of the north, where I live.

    The solution to our housing need is similar to the solution to our energy needs. One solution(living car free and using pedal power) is fine for the urban dweller, but maladjusted to the farmer who grows the beans and cabbage that said urban dweller buys at the local farmers market and pedals home on a hip townie bike with a porter front rack.

    end rant

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    Recumbent Trike countersTrike's Avatar
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    I understand that some were digging in underground very deep to avoid the oppressive Las Vegas NE heat. Shortly after that I saw the post discussing Detroit MI. Both were quite interesting- and could not be much more exactly opposite in my opinion. Just today I came across this:
    http://www.marketwatch.com/story/las...oit-2011-05-13
    The Earthship housing idea has been around a while but I have not seen or heard similar comparisons. Now if I could figure out how to open a hole in the ground Lucas-movie style (Tomorrowland; I think), ride in, and close the door- I would be all set!

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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    What country is this? US?
    Yes, that was loosely the Thompson, Hickey model.

    Here's a fairly decent summary of it.
    http://social-class-in-the-united-st...E#Middle_class

    In my experience, people get far too caught up on the money and pay little to no attention to the attitudes and perceptions which at least, if not more, important.

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    It may be "strange" to you, but it's what it is. It's the dividing line where you are no longer "working", but you do not have any real power over the world on a real scale.
    Then again, a lot of people I see who have incomes >100,000 are what I would consider "poor", since any disruption in their cashflow will almost instantly bankrupt them, and as such they are utterly dependent on the person above them in the heirarchy.
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    According to who?

    I do love people say things like "it is what it is" about subjective descriptors which have no commonly accepted definition. At least do tell whose definition of middle-class you are using.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    I said that 50 per cent of the entire world's population is now urban. The US is very much over 50 % urban--more like 85 % IIRC. So you might have to recalculate your estimate of the portion of energy that is used by urbanites. Scientists who study land use are now saying that urban living is more efficient (and therefore "greener") on a per capita basis.


    They produce all of their own energy only if they never imoport anything. If they buy food at a store, or order machine parts and building supplies, they are clearly NOT energy independant. Did the community you're talking about grow/produce everything they use.

    Actually, all communities in America already do that. My city treats its sewage, removing (most) human waste, and discharges the almost clean water back into the Grand River. then the people of Grand Rapids get to reuse our water a couple days after we're done with it.


    Really? I didn't realize that each home in lansing collected and processesd their own water and sewage? How much of their own food can most urban hoseholds produce? I am just saying if we do believe in sustainable living we have to find a way to live with the earth and not against it. And just as many scientists are saying that large urban areas are part of the global warming problem. And I have posted the studies. The point I was making is they do produce energy per household and are already doing what cities need to do in using more green energy.

    The other point I am making is people are just as unlikely to review their living choices and be defensive of them as the 90+ percent are of their transportation choices. We wish and hope things will change but when change takes place in an area other than where we wish and hope for we simply say it will not work.

    The thing seems to be many don't want to hear about Tumble weed houses, Straw construction, Earthships, geodesic domes or any other number of housing options for a US without maunfacturing or enough jobs to support our large urban areas. If your predictions of 9 billion people comes true producing your own food and collecting your own water may be the only way some will survive. Once again just why I am looking at what I am looking at.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
    Really? I didn't realize that each home in lansing collected and processesd their own water and sewage? How much of their own food can most urban hoseholds produce?
    To live sustainably it is not necessary that each household treat its own sewage or grow its own food, if those functions can be done as efficiently, or arguably much more efficiently, collectively. If some folks do it all on their own, good for them, but there just isn't anywhere near enough space available in the USA to replace all the apartment buildings in Manhattan or Brooklyn or Los Angeles with Earthships, and there certainly aren't enough used car tires. So the lifestyle you are describing can only work for a fraction of the population, and even then, only if most people don't try to do it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by countersTrike View Post
    Now if I could figure out how to open a hole in the ground Lucas-movie style (Tomorrowland; I think), ride in, and close the door- I would be all set!
    What about Radon gas?

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    Quote Originally Posted by cooker View Post
    To live sustainably it is not necessary that each household treat its own sewage or grow its own food, if those functions can be done as efficiently, or arguably much more efficiently, collectively. If some folks do it all on their own, good for them, but there just isn't anywhere near enough space available in the USA to replace all the apartment buildings in Manhattan or Brooklyn or Los Angeles with Earthships, and there certainly aren't enough used car tires. So the lifestyle you are describing can only work for a fraction of the population, and even then, only if most people don't try to do it.
    Yes you may be right. But for those in a position to do so doing something different seems more reasonable than doing nothing. Remember someone suggested that I move downtown somewhere to be green rather than look into alternative living? But for me to move down town anywhere would increase my carbon footprint, (At least according to any carbon caculator you can find.)

    Like I said in my origional post I have done most of what I can do personally to become less of a burden on earth resources. It is a lot easier for someone that owns their own property and lives with less restrictive building codes to do something to live with nature rather than fight or build against it in my opinion.

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