End of the Year

Ah, it’s that time of year again.  The stocking are all hung with care. There's a certain nip in the air, and we are all dreaming of a white Christmas….yeah, right, maybe if you’re going snow skiing somewhere.  I think most of us would be happy with a rainy Christmas. So right after Christmas is a New Year, and that does give us pause to look back at where we’ve been and where we’re going. What a helluva ride we’ve had this year in central Texas. The worst drought on record, devastating wildfires, and record high temperatures -- we’re wondering what next year might bring. Could some of this be caused by man-made climate change? Could green building eliminate some of these problems? Can we really change the way we produce and use energy? The real problem with asking these questions is we have to think about them and try to come up with answers.

A few times this year I found myself in situations where I had to defend using green building techniques.  For a moment let’s not worry about trying to change the world, but look at what green building really is and how it could help in the dire situations we’ve witnessed this year. Besides, the term “green building” troubles me.  It’s so misused and abused, its meaning is being diluted.

While talking to several people about rain water collection systems, I was asked:  Since we aren’t getting any rain, what good would a rain water collection system do? Plenty, I said. We are getting rain now. It might not be enough to fill the lakes, but it can fill collection systems. One inch of rain on 1,000 square foot roof yields 623 gallons of water.  It’s free, and it’s yours -- no having to compete with your neighbor with the well and the deepest straw drawing your water out of the ground. And for almost the same price of putting in a well, you can install a potable whole-house collection system – a simple case that demonstrates that green building doesn’t cost more, it saves. Ok, so you’re on city water? At least get yourself a couple of rain barrels, collect water for your garden, and beat the watering restrictions. And don’t forget -- we do end our droughts with flash floods. It will rain again.

Could better building techniques have saved more homes during the wildfires? Yes, I believe so. I’ve driven through Bastrop a number of times and seen the destruction. For example, in many of the homes that were spared, metal roofs played an important part. Better tree clearing and yard maintenance also helped in some situations.  As an old Boy Scout, I am reminded of our motto, “Be Prepared.” I think an awareness and use of better building techniques would help.

With 2010’s record heat came record energy use. How many times did we hear there might be rolling black-outs? How high did your electric bill get this summer? How many stories did you read or hear about the increased cost of production and that our demand is going up? Texas is becoming a victim of its own success. As our economy grows and more folks move here, our demand for energy will continue to increase. Can we meet that demand with our current methods?

Ok, so if for no other reason in the world, energy savings should be the best reason to build a green home, build an energy efficient home, build a high performance home or whatever you want to call it. If you really don’t care about trying to lower your utility bill, please stop reading this blog and you might as well unsubscribe to this newsletter because we’ll continue to talk about energy efficiency. I have never yet met a man or woman who doesn’t want to save money on their utilities. Most of the calls we got this summer were for energy efficiency. The true believers are building for the future. It doesn’t matter whether you’re are doing it only to help save our only planet (you will be helping) --  it just makes good personal economic sense. Reduce your home’s energy load and you save money.

To achieve energy savings, green building is about how all the pieces fit together to create an efficient, functional home. This is the part I love. It's not just one thing that makes a sustainable home -- it's everything.

  • You need a design that's right for this area, the building site, and your family's needs.
  • You need materials selected with care to make sure they're functional, healthy, durable and easily maintained, used efficiently, cost effective, and aesthetically pleasing.
  • You need a well-planned heating, cooling, and ventilation system that will reduce your energy load.
  • You need energy-efficient lighting and appliances.
  • You need . . .  well, if I kept going, I'd have to write a book instead of a blog post.

Guess what else?  Here are a few other benefits you get with a green home – it’s

  • healthy
  • comfortable
  • efficient
  • durable
  • low maintenance

So what's up for next year?  If I had that crystal ball and could predict the future, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post because I would have won the lottery.  But I will make a few predictions:

  • Energy demand will increase.
  • Energy costs will continue to rise.
  • Severe weather will continue to happen.
  • We will see more drought and wildfires.

So what can we do?

Be Prepared.