Make Carbon-Neutral homes the future?

When parents decide to purchase a new, larger house, the most common excuse is the children – they need a bigger house so thet children don’t have to have to share bedrooms, or so there is a larger garden for the children to play in, or the house is in a better school catchment area. But in reality, the move is for the parents. Children can be reluctant to move away from an area because that’s the are they know – that’s where all their friends are. Children usually just don’t get excited about a larger house with more bedrooms or space unless there is something particularly appealling for them.

Larger homes are making an impact on our environment and they are possibly having negative ramifications on global warming. In fact, half of all greenhouse emissions in the US are from houses.

Greenhouse gases are produced when fossil fuels are burned to give energy. About a third of household greenhouse gases are produced in the houses themselves – fuel is burned for hot water and heating. The rest of the gases will be produced in the power plants themselves.

Of course, the larger the house, the more energy is taken to run it – from lighting to heating to air conditioning and electronic equipment.

Because of this, the 2030 challenge has been brought to the fold by architects in the US. The 2030 challenge calls for a 50% reduction in fossil-fuel consumption in all new builds immediately.

It also aims to reduce the fossil-fuel standard dependence on new builds by 60% by the year 2010. This target will then increase by 10% every 5 years with the ultimate aim that all buildings will be ‘carbon neutral’ by 2030 and they will be able to operate without total reliance on any greenhouse gas emitting source.

The brain behind this project, Ed Mazria, claims that the program can be implemented at no extra cost by using design strategies, energy-saving materials and special construction techniques – all of which are currently available to construction companies. The greatest part of the 2030 challenge is that it is being spearheaded by architects. This is good news for the project because they are the ones who determine building specifications and materials on everything they design.

Unfortunately, architects do not design and spec all properties – in particular, they do not deal with the housing arena much. Home builders are responsible for this sector, and although they have to follow local energy performance standards, as yet, there is nothing in place to address global warming issues. Home builders will tend to build what they feel people will pay for.

And this is where Mum and Dad come in. If people start to ask for energy efficient buildings, more will be built. Of course, buying a smaller house will help reduce greenhouse gases, but many people want the space. If you must buy big, make sure you buy efficient.

Naturally, there are sceptics about global warming. However, even if you are a non-believer, energy efficient houses should be something we all look to buy – energy efficient houses will not only safeguard our children’s futures, but will also reduce our household bills, freeing up cash to spend on other luxuries.

America should be applauded for this initiaive and with any luck, where America leads, others will follow.

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