Writing a blog on Tiny Houses I spend a lot of time scouring the internet for stories, ideas, videos etc. Over time I start to see certain patterns of ideas that proliferate the web. Considering these ideas, there are some that jump out as having merit. Here are a few ideas that I’d like to see really take off in 2011.
Last year was the first year that we actually saw a decrees in the average size of home purchased, which indicates that buyers are going for smaller. This is actually quite significant because we have been increasing our floor plan size for over 60 years! The average home bought in 2010 dropped 200 square feet, which in this data set is quite significant.
I have seen a big explosion of solar being integrated into houses, I have also seen a significant uptick in companies getting panels to consumers at much higher efficiency rating. There seems to be an increased demand for solar in newer homes. Currently the highest achieved efficiency for mass production levels is 18% in lab settings. There are now companies offering panels at 15% on the market. What is more, companies are now designing closed loop systems where the panels can be returned (for free) and 80-90% of the materials can be reused. Prices have also dropped some, but hasn’t quite hit that sweet spot for most of us.
When you purchase an appliance you now often see an energy performance rating on it, what if we applied this to housing and office spaces. Well some are and more people are demanding it. I know when I have rented an apartment or friends have, there is always this question about what the cost will be to heat it, lingering in our minds. We can asked what type of HVAC and water heater are in the apartment, but we can’t really get a good idea on its overall performance. What if landlords of larger complexes were required to produce a report on how much it would cost during the year to keep the apartment at 70 degrees? What if they had to provide the results of an energy audit? As savvy renters become more informed, I hope we see a trend towards this.
Last week I saw my first dual flush toilet in a residential home within the USA. This is pretty common in Australia, but not here. People are becoming aware of how much water is being wasted and if nothing more than to reduce costs, they want to be more responsible. You can now buy rain barrels at Sam’s Club, my city now sells them pretty cheaply, it is clear that people are thinking about this. About 10 years ago we started to see low flow shower heads enter the market, they have only grown in popularity. I wonder if there might be a point when you might have to pay an additional tax on non low flow shower heads.
Even beyond the simple fixes, I have began to see more significant strides to the water problem. In my neighborhood a house was built with a water catchment system. This system take all the grey water from the house and from the roof and waters the lawn and other practical applications. It struck me as pretty significant because my neighbors could largely be categorized as the perpetrators of over consumption, yet here is a entire house that might say the tide is changing.
The End of Light Bulbs
This year I saw a huge explosion of CFL and LED lights hitting the shelf. This is an important shift from exsisting in a lab to being able to purchase at your local store. At my local Walmart the aisle is now 50/50 standard/green lights, at Sam’s Club, the light bulb section is 20/80 (standard/green lights). Our power company gives away 13 free CFLs to customers if they want them. In a few short years we will see standard bulbs go away, maybe even outlawed. There is even a talk about people hording bulbs for the phasing out of them, some even think a niche black market might develop for these type of lights.
Working From Home
One shift that I would really like to see have a big jump is working from home. Armed with my laptop, cell phone and my headset I have everything I need. Office space is expensive, uses a lot of resources and have so little aesthetic appeal that it can be soul crushing. The commuting to these office is one of our largest uses of our cars, which uses a lot of oil. Plus if you could work from anywhere, you can live where you want and take extend trips and work from there.
There needs to be a big shift in management’s thinking, right now they are paralyzed by what I call “old think” which dictates all work must take 40 hours a week and all work must be done on site. These are two notions that need to go away. I assert that working from home forces managers to clearly determine measures and goals, which leads to better productivity. If it takes an employee 3 hours to do the tasks well, then so be it. We pay for quality output, not time.
There are some that don’t work well in a “at home” setting, but they can either stay at the office or join a co-working space. As less and less office space is used it will start going up for sale for cheap. Re purposing these spaces for housing and other things is going to be the really interesting part of this evolution.