Can a Big House in the Country Be Green?

monier house perth at night photo

Over at Inhabitat, they are showing the loveliest green house, the Monier House by Ackert Architecture, with rammed earth walls, wind turbines, solar hot water, rain water collection, everything it needs to be "a demonstration project to show how alternative energy and passive systems could be integrated to create a self sufficient home."

I should be excited, and a few years ago I would have been, and would have immediately posted it on TreeHugger and cursed Jill and her gang for beating me to it. But lately I have become ambivalent about such projects; while we need demonstrations of self-sufficient homes, what we really need are demonstrations of how the majority of us, who cannot afford four acres and the construction costs of such a house, will live in ten years. That, I am afraid, is the real challenge.

cottage company houses photo

Perhaps more interesting is the work of the Cottage Company, a developer in Washington State that builds communities of 700 square foot houses. They don't have a lot of high tech features, but they don't use very much energy or resources, either. I suspect that if one totals the embodied energy of the materials in the Monier House, that over the useful life of the house that the total footprint of a 700 foot cottage house is a lot lower. Philip Proefrock does good coverage of Cottage Housing at Green Building Elements.

cottage company site plan image

They get a decent number of units per acre as well, without having to resort to elevators and other systems that are needed for dense vertical housing.

monier house perth exterior photo

Kimberly Ackert really has built a worthwhile structure that " features an earthy modern aesthetic and utilizes a variety of sustainable systems to produce its own energy, regulate its climate, and ensure the comfort of it’s inhabitants." But I think the time for demonstrations is past; we need affordable green design, new construction and rehabilitation for everyone, and the methods, materials and technologies will result in houses that are a lot smaller, cheaper and closer together. I hope that we will show more of the latter and fewer of the former. ::Inhabitat
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