Today we were planning to discuss Industrial Markets, Low-Income Housing, Taxes and Government. Instead, we went on a field trip to see two green built homes.
The first was done by the daughter of a green builder. They’d bought a completely run down house near downtown Fort Worth and renovated it. If memory serves me correctly, they said they bought it for $110,000 and put $80K into repairs. They said it only cost them 10-15% more than a conventional rehab would have. Now their electric bill averages $70 while they have neighbors paying upwards of $700 for their drafty old home.
They’d done things you would typically associate with green building – spray foam insulation, double paned windows, tankless water heater, etc. They said they put a Class 4 roof on it which reduced their insurance by 40%.
Both the homes we saw used mini split units which are basically ductless HVAC units. Evidently they’re the green thing going these days. They cost more than central AC units when put in multiple rooms but save energy by only controlling the climate of the rooms you’re using.
The second home was custom built and qualified for a LEED certification but they didn’t want to pay the extra to get it certified. It was a modern design – open kitchen, dining and living room floor plan. Some of the features included a flat white roof, tankless water heater, hardipanel siding, and spray foam insulation.
They have a detached garage which improves air quality in the main house by keeping fumes from vehicles and garage chemicals away. They have a direct vent gas fireplace which doesn’t draw heat out of other rooms like traditional fireplaces and retains 80% of the energy versus 10% traditional.
The most interesting feature was a real time digital energy usage readout near the fireplace. It tells you how much energy you’re using at any given moment. The funny thing about it was that the husband would monitor it from his mobile phone and had called home to ask his wife about spikes in energy usage (she was drying clothes).
After the tour we returned to class briefly to discuss our topics. If you trace back to cloud computing and mobile devices, you could guess that warehousing and logistics are doing well in the industrial market. Companies that run warehouses of servers are locating themselves in cooler climates to keep their cooling bills down.
We didn’t discuss low income housing, taxes or government much. What I’ll say about that though is that the best way to create more low income housing is to build smaller units. Subsidizing housing discourages new development and reduces property values. No one should get a free ride to be able to live in nicer areas just because they make less money.
As for government, we have SOPA going on. Our intellectual property laws have been amuck for quite some time now. If you read foreign accounts of it, the US patent office usually favors US companies even when foreign companies try to register first. That’s been going on since before Edison’s time. And now we have companies patenting living organisms – seeds and even DNA last I heard.
SOPA is the stop online piracy act. We already have intellectual property laws that allow the enforcement needed. The only thing this law would do is give government permission to shut down websites it doesn’t like on technicalities. Just like now, thanks to laws like the Patriot Act, all you need to do to ruin someone is decide they’re a terrorist or have even the remotest association with someone who is associated with someone who might be a terrorist. If you consider the six degrees of separation, we’re probably all 2-3 degrees away from someone who isn’t happy with US foreign policy and could therefore be labeled a terrorist.
In the news was GoDaddy.com who came out publicly in favor of SOPA. Their backlash from their customer base was so strong that they were forced to retract their position and now oppose it. Given the fact that they helped draft the legislation, many of their customers still don’t trust their intentions and have permanently switched providers.