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.
Great post. I think you covered a lot of the prime points here. I think people get tied up with the misconception of what a green home really is or what is means to truly live in a sustainable building. Most people think that enough Energy Star appliances, reclaimed materials, efficient HVAC and some PVs qualifies a green home.
The truth is (I believe) that sustainability goes beyond implementing technology in the hopes that it compensates for daily wasteful activities. Sustainability is a lifestyle. It means driving less, not buying a hybrid. It means designing an efficient 3,000 SF home that feels like a normal 4,000 SF home.
I would say that the only way that a large residence can be considered green is if it becomes the net producer of resources. Power is a fine place to start but food, fertilizer and fresh water are all plausible. Hopefully we can continue to push the envelope in designs to help bridge the gap between possibility and reality.
These days with the installments of green roofing and solar panels many houses have the ability to become sustainable. The size is not much of a problem as the designs. Individuals who want to build larger homes are able to, with the understanding that in order for them to become sustainable they would have to learn about alternative energy. Many alternatives to becoming green that are being discussed recently are the above that I mentioned and others such as, solar hot water heating systems, wind generators, photovoltaic panels, and geothermal pumps. By installing these, individuals can become conscious of how they taking steps into having a house that is both sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Since the owner who are building these large houses have enough money to spare, all the systems they should install should not pose as a problem for them. Sure, they may be building on environmentally sensitive land but they are cashing out in buying alternative energy systems to compensate for building such a large home. I agree that people can get by with less and the idea that one can live without such large, obnoxious homes hits home for me too. But with owners believing bigger is better there is no way to convince them but to only educate them. These homeowners need to be aware of the damages and harm in which they can and could impact the environment. The first step is making them aware and the second is to see if they choose ways in living green. One in which will benefit them in the long run in saving money and the environment in which we all live in.