Can you build five 10,000 square foot mansions in an environmentally sensitive location and still be considered sustainable? That’s what U2 guitarist The Edge is proposing in Malibu, California.
The Edge (aka David Evans) states that these homes will be the most environmentally sensitive homes in the world, but the real question is can something that large be environmentally responsible? The short answer – no; the longer answer – kind of sort of, but not really.
The short answer of no relates to the basic concept that if you’re providing a residence for a few people (husband, wife, a few kids, and maybe an in-law or two) do you really require that much space? If you can use less space then the house can be built with fewer materials, and thus require fewer trucks to haul the construction material, and use less energy in heating and cooling the house, and so on.
The “kind of sort of, but not really” would be the correct answer if the house did not only be a simple residence but also provided more energy than it used, and essentially becomes a miniature power plant. Another way is if most of the attributes of the house were multifunctional, such as the proposed moat going around one of the homes was sized and placed in a manner that it also provides passive cooling to the house. Maybe the leaf-like shape of the roof will help harness the potential wind energy, create a sort of venturi effect and increase the speed of the wind, thus creating more energy harvested from the wind.
Building five mansions at this location breaks the first two rules of green homes – do not build on environmentally sensitive land, and do not build obscenely large houses. These mansions can still implement a multitude of sustainable materials and systems that will in the long run save the owners some money. If you ask yourself if you could get by with less (which includes not only physical size but also the spiritual and emotional aspect of having enough room to live comfortably) and the answer is “yes” then it’s not really as sustainable as it could be.