The building industry is not just in the sewer, it has gone a lot lower than that. So when they planned the New American Home for the International Builders Show in Las Vegas, they could have done something appropriate for the times, perhaps a Katrina cottage like the one that blew everyone away at the IBS three years ago, or maybe a Clayton I-home, or perhaps a model jail for all the creeps who skipped out on their workers' comp bills.
But no, they are going out with a bang, with an 8721 square foot "demonstration of sustainable technologies." Harry Sawyers at Popular Mechanics does a devastating deconstruction:
There is a reclaimed teak foyer table, a salvaged elm office floor, and the chaise lounge's velvet and the countertops are made from scraps dutifully gathered from the grounds of mills and quarries. This green bling lives alongside some extravagant amenities: Flickering gas fireplaces pop up on vacant walls, the dog gets its own shower and the HDTVs are outnumbered only by the flat screen home automation panels so complex the interior designer had to learn how to turn on the lights. Handsome new LED bulbs save power—or would, if the house didn't have so many hundreds of them. Solar panels heat hot water for the infinity pool. And damn, what a pool—complete with submerged, swim-up concrete bar stools. And there's another bar outside the pool, and another in the basement.
The New American Home's rooftop bristles with photovoltaic panels that, the builders claim, completely make up for the 4200 kilowatt-hours a year in electricity to power its abundant lights and gadgets. But while the electricity is offset, the energy consumed by the house is not. The bulk of an estimated $2500 annual total utility cost would come from the natural gas used to heat and cool the house, heat the water and fire up those fireplaces. In its defense, the house cools itself using 39 percent as much fuel as a comparably sized structure, but using a rough Las Vegas average of $7 per million btu in natural gas (the national average is $4.90), we estimate that this house consumes close to 300 million Btu in gas per year. At 293 kwh-per-million Btu, that's getting up past 85,000 kwh per year—three times the average American home's 27,022 annual kwh. Put simply, this house is bloated.
The wealthy, environmentally attuned family that presumably would move in could save far more energy by moving to a 3000 sq-ft. house—even one without all the solar panels.
More in Popular Mechanics
Past International Home Show New American Homes on TreeHugger:
2008: What Not To Build: The New American Home
2007: Big Green House at International Builders Show