Last week, guest author Susan Brautovich raised the question of whether green mega-homes are truly green or if small and beautiful is the greenest of them all. She pointed out that larger homes will have more embedded energy than comparably constructed smaller homes and will also require more resources to maintain. On the other hand, she also pointed out that early adaptors are often found among the upscale set and these folks can do a great deal to legitimize new techniques and technologies that are trying to nudge their way into the market at the most fragile stage of a company’s existence. This participation will “drive green building in the direction of economies of scale, lower prices, innovation, and wider adoption of greener building materials, systems, and methods.”
The house, which is known as the HGA house (which stands for Hamptons Green Alliance, an association of building and related-service professionals in the Long Island Hamptons, organized to promote green building and maintenance practices that collaborated with architects Ric Stott and Craig Lee on this project.)
The house is also net zero energy and embodied carbon negative, having earned a Phase I Embodied Carbon Negative certification which means the construction of the home reduced more carbon emissions than the amount of carbon emitted. The home’s embodied carbon footprint was measured using the ICEMAN Carbon Factor index developed by HGA co-founder Frank Dalene.
In addition to the usual energy-saving features like southern orientation, passive solar design, super-insulation and advanced windows, sealed ductwork, dual flush toilets, low flow fixtures, rainwater harvesting, and Energy Star appliances, the home utilizes LED lighting, solar thin film on the south-facing windows, building integrated solar PV and solar thermal with dual seasons operation, a geothermal loop, a high efficiency wood-burning fireplace and a whole building smart energy monitoring system.
It’s hard to argue with a carbon negative dwelling from a global warming perspective, though Susan’s article does raise some philosophical questions about the ethos of consumption and its current role in our unsustainable society and how much space is a reasonable amount for a person to live in.
No information on pricing is provided, but it’s a safe bet that a house like this won’t soon be coming to a neighborhood near you. But hopefully someday, many of these features will be commonplace.
That being said, it’s hard not to get excited about the application of technologies and construction techniques that have been combined here to produce results like this today in a spacious and lovely home.
My sense is that as we progress down the road to sustainable living, we will continue to readdress some of the basic questions of how we meet our needs for shelter, comfort and security in fundamental ways. But a house like this, while it may be somewhat traditional in that regard, is anything but traditional in the way that is has leveraged technology to create a highly efficient, low impact residence despite its prodigious size.
RP Siegel is the co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails. Like airplanes, we all leave behind a vapor trail. And though we can easily see others’, we rarely see our own.
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