Tuesday, February 23, 2010
This story from NPR about the State of California's new law requiring certain "green" measures for all new construction represents a fundamental flaw with the whole idea of "green" new housing.
The fundamental flaw is the idea that building a new house--no matter how many eco-friendly features it may have--is "greener" than retrofitting, renovating, or rehabbing existing structures.
The story touches on the concept of "embodied energy" which is the reason that renovating is almost always greener than new construction. Unfortunately, the California law appears to slant the playing field in favor of new green construction as opposed to "green renovation" of existing structures.
The other tricky part is how their is no maximum size on these new "green" homes. That's key because you can put in all the green gadgets you want but a 2,000 square foot or smaller house is almost always going to be more efficient in environmental performance than large structures. Really what this law is doing is mandating that inefficiently sized new homes operate more efficiently.
If they really wanted to address the issue of green building, the state would incentivize the renovation of existing structures and the construction of only those new structures that are not oversized in scale.
The end result? Good intentions but bad execution by California.
--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.