Panel House Perhaps Not So Green

When we first wrote about David Hertz's Panel House, it was described as a "large, comfortable thermos". We liked it for its innovative use of refrigerator panels and other high-tech ideas. However after reading about it in the New York Times, we are reconsidering its virtues. The owner, Thomas Ennis, demolished a cottage where Jim Morrison once lived to build this 3,500 square foot glass and steel house with five car garage in the basement, complete with every energy consuming gadget that Ennis, an inventor, could think up. Push the button for the fire pit and flames leap out from a gas jet under a decorative bed of aluminum shavings on the living room floor. An elevator runs from the five-car basement garage to the living room and kitchen on the first floor to a landing outside the bedrooms on the second floor to a terrace on the rooftop. According to the Times:

Built for about $1.2 million, the house insulates Mr. Ennis from the California sun with MeTecno-API Century Walls, lightweight, prefab panels of aluminum stuffed with urethane foam — more typical of a refrigerated building than a beach house — that snap into place in less than a day. ("They'll keep ice frozen in the desert," said Eric Jurus, MeTecno's sales manager.)

The downside to such insulation is that when the house gets hot, it stays hot. Mr. Ennis insisted on air-conditioning, but his architect was resistant. Mr. Hertz built the house so that it channels rising heat through a staircase and out of a bank of skylights, which open automatically using temperature sensors."

So it is a fridge with glass doors that the architect designed to ventilate naturally, but it has air conditioning to compensate for the gas fireplace in the living room floor. Sigh. ::New York Times

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