Archive for the Environmentally Conscious Category

What Tiny Houses Mean For Urban Density

Yesterday I was talking about tiny houses with another tiny house aficionado when the topic of how do tiny houses intersect with the need in the future for more urban density.  There have been several studies suggesting that in order to meet the needs of the future, more and more people are going to have to live in cities.  The land around cities will also have to be shifted to agricultural spaces to support these cities with food that can be produced within a few hours travel time.

nrdc-vancouver

So what do tiny houses mean for this potential future?  Tiny houses provide a living laboratory for people to try out different design ideas, utility systems, storage solutions, and learn lessons that can be taken and applied to small sustainable housing of the next evolution of the city.  I have been asked many of times: “how do you think you’ll get the same density with tiny houses as you do apartment buildings?”  The simple answer is I’m not.

In a city setting essentially you could have same interiors, but the outside form would be one that is stack-able.   Since you can’t have side wall windows or a sky light, we are going to have to make the end walls floor to ceiling windows to get enough light in.  We will need to design as part of the master plan, outdoor living spaces that people actually want to hang out in, with roof top gardens, building courtyards, local community gardens, and great parks.

In the suburbs and rural areas I’d expect to see more mini villages pop up in the form of co-housing projects.  These villages would most likely allow people who want to live in the country do so, but also be the hubs for agricultural activities for themselves and the cities.

I struggle personally with the notion that we may be faced with living more and more in dense cities because I am one that likes room to roam, a quite place to sit and think and green space to be in.   Here in Charlotte, while it is a very sizable city, I live on several acres. I have been fortunate enough to travel a good bit and even cities that have done a really good job with their parks and green spaces, I still find myself feeling smothered by tall buildings and concrete.  Cities certainly offer a lot to do, but there is something deep inside of me that resonates with being outdoors in the woods.  Something that I fear no high density city will be able to provide me with.

Your Turn!

  • How do you see the future of housing?
  • What will the cities and country look like for a sustainable future?

Why Americans Don’t Recycle

It’s a curious thing why so many Americans don’t recycle, currently just a little more than half of Americans do.  There is a very different attitude than I have seen in other countries and it seems to vary from city to city as well.  I know in some places, recycling isn’t a service offered, while some places its an optional pay for service.  Here in Charlotte, NC it is lumped into our taxes and every home is given a recycle bin.  But even though the bins are provided and people have already paid for the service, they refuse to recycle.  I have heard everything from I don’t know what I can recycle to “I’m not a tree hugger, I don’t recycle on principle.”  :palm to face:  Anyway, here is a interesting info graphic on recycling:

Click image for larger version

 

Should We Even Be Building Tiny Houses?

Today I came upon this little graphic and it struck me that maybe even Tiny Houses are too high impact.  As you can see from the graphic below, there are so many empty houses in America and so many homeless people.  Now this is certainly an over simplification of our homelessness issue, but it does beg the question: Should we be building new houses at all?

To me there a few reasons that I can think of why we don’t you existing houses and build new ones.  That houses aren’t in the location we want, for many people it is they aren’t big enough, we didn’t know about them, they don’t have the features we want.  These are many of the rationalizations we a society make when it comes to not utilizing an existing home and instead build a new one.  But the worst one of all is the fact that the vast majority of homes made in America today are cheaply made, lack aesthetic appeal, and there is no pride put into them.

One would have hopped that we would have learned our lesson with the market crashing and bad home loans, but in the past few years we have seen the emergence of the 40 year home mortgage.  Couple this with poorly made houses by the 10’s of thousands and I have spoken with several realtors saying people are taking 40 years out and the loan will outlast the house.

The other consideration to be made is are tiny houses that much more efficient to offset the impact you create by building one (however small) when compared to a larger house.  Heating and cooling are two things that I think you could make up the difference possibly.

What do you think, should we be build new houses?

Richard Heinberg On Post Carbon Society

Here is a great video with Richard Heinberg who is a senior fellow of the Post Carbon Institute talks about his home a little and the impact of oil. What I really like about Richard is how he presents things, I have seen him before and he is very good at talk about post carbon society. He states that we aren’t going to run out of oil, but that we will be priced out of oil. Instead of arguing when peak oil will occur he often points out that within a 10-20 year window where it will happen it is pointless really to argue when, it is just a fact that it will occur sometime. So we better start thinking how we are going to tackle the issues that face us.

Y House

Another great solar decathlon house, this time from the China team.  This house comes in at $248,000 for the whole house, including the solar panels etc.

 

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