A FEW SPOTS LEFT – Hear the journey of Mike Larsen and Linda Nelson, two high school sweethearts who, after 26 years of marriage, are transitioning from Minneapolis city life to 60 acres of restored prairie on bluffs overlooking the Whitewater River in Southeastern Minnesota. They’ll share their transformative experience navigating everything from material reclamation centers, composting toilet manuals, energy cost spreadsheets and meetings with off-the-grid gurus. February 26th, 7:30 pm.
Suggested donation of $10 at the door, we’ll provide the beverages and snacks.
RSVP to [email protected] this week to let us know you’re coming.
Buildings consume over 40% of the energy and 75% of the electricity produced in the U.S. According to Architecture 2030, buildings are responsible for nearly half of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. So what? Well, that’s 140% more than all transportation combined and 240% more than industry. Although you rarely hear it over the shouting of Hummer bashing and BP picketing; architects, engineers, contractors, and real estate owners should be at the forefront of energy reduction measures.
Last Thursday, President Obama spoke in Pennsylvania about investing in building technology and energy efficiency. “Making our buildings more energy efficient is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways to combat pollution and create jobs right here in America.”
That’s probably true, but I couldn’t find much in that day’s press about curbing use. In our office, we have a hunch that people are willing to be energy efficient in their buying patterns – CFL or LED light bulbs, Energy Star appliances, etc. – but not as willing to change behavior. People want their lifestyle (that SUV) but they want to feel good about it (Presto! A hybrid SUV!).
A recent article in The New Yorker (December 20/27, 2010), The Efficiency Dilemma, makes that hunch seem optimistic. The central argument of the article is based on the Jevons Paradox, which states – more or less – that energy efficiency does NOT equate to overall reductions in consumption; actually, the reverse is true.
In the past 30 years, appliances have become more efficient, but they tend to be larger and we have more of them. Air conditioners run on less electricity, but we use more of them to cool billions of square feet. Houses are better insulated, but they’ve doubled in size.
Can buildings be more energy efficient and space efficient? Can we learn to live differently, smaller? We think so and help clients at least consider this option. We work through space analyses with them, and often find they don’t want as much space as they thought. Yes, there is a time, usually when adult wage earners are between the ages of 30 and 40, when families may be pinched for room, but it’s usually bookended by years when people don’t need to spread out.
Efficiency is part of the energy puzzle, but unless we look at behavior simultaneously, efficiency victories will be hollow. People still make cracks about Jimmy Carter putting on a sweater in the White House in 1977, but why? Can we have the cake and eat it too? What’s your plan to save energy where you live?