May 2008

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« Youth in Asia | Main | The Economics Party »


Tom Purl

I second the Passivhaus recommendation. One non-profit group in the US who's building passive houses is E-colab ( Check out that site if you need more information about building a truly energy-efficient home. I visited one of these houses in Urbana, Illinois and was very impressed.

Alter S. Reiss

I'd go on for a bit about the concept of "regulatory capture", but honestly, you'd do just as well to type the words into google, and read the first thing that comes up.

Long story short: People buy maybe two, three houses in their lifetime, for the most part. So they don't pay that much attention. The housing industry sells thousands of houses every day. So they wind up making sure the government's information and regulation works out best for their needs.

Bill Harting


I think someone posted this earlier, but your No Cal bias is showing. If you are buying a house in a Northern state (like I just did in Michigan, yeah, I bought a house in Michigan) and if the house for sale doesn't have information available from the agent or the homeowner on energy costs for the last year or two, you just move on.


Grow grass on your roof.

Shivering in Alaska

We just bought windows from a local manufacturer, who builds windows for the extreme climate here in Alaska. If cost is not an option, perhaps you should look to the colder regions to get windows that are more effective that what would be manufactured locally.


About the realtor, when I bought my house in 2000, I not only asked about energy use, but my realtor DID know the information and provided documentation. So I guess I had a much better realtor than you did.

As for blaming .gov for the woeful state of green info, give me a break. Maybe they were too busy carrying out Bush's anti-black people agenda during Katrina to gather all this useful info?

I honestly don't see how its the .gov's responsibility to provide this info, nor to make us be more energy efficient.


Why not just build one of these?


Oops, I already missed putting the word 'penis' in my post today.
Sorry, Rita Mae.


When I bought my house, in 1997, I asked how much it cost to heat it. Unfortunately, they either lied or kept the thermostat at 50 degrees.


Jennifer Simon

As an environmental lawyer, I focus my practice on assisting commercial developers to incorporate sustainable building elements into new developments and into existing structures. Many of the same principles apply to residential developments. You should contact someone at the U.S. Green Building Council ( They will be able to direct you to local architects, consultants, and designers who will be able to provide you with tons of information on greening your home and saving energy costs and usage. Alternatively, please feel free to contact me directly and I will be happy to send you a few references in your area.

Jennifer Simon, Esq.



If you are really interested in energy efficient buildings you should check out the passive house standard:


The real people to blame are the consumers, because they drive the market.

But you already knew that, because this blog post is supposed to affect the consumers' demands.

Good luck with that.


At some point, consumer choices always come down to cost, since almost everyone has a budget. However, availability of options plays a big part. For example, look at all the packaging on stuff we buy. How much of this comes in huge amounts of plastic packaging and we are given no other choice? many grocery items we all buy give us no options other than a) buying the item in sucky non-ecological packaging or b) not buying the item. That's it! I, and some percentage of consumers, would be willing to pay some percentage extra for choices of recyclable or just plain less packaging, but there is no such choice.

About some posts regarding government above: yes, the government sucks at a lot of things, but often getting the government to mandate things, even that manufacturers need to provide better information about their products, is a good start.


Does Karl's actual name happen to be Kruphnehdahpheweundikaniswalyniaphorgonopop, by any chance?


You need to check out the Passivhaus Intstitut in Germany. It's non-profit, so your concerns about impartiality should be less serious. They build so efficiently that you don't even need a heating system. Though they are keen on reasonably-sized houses, not the 5000-square-foot behemoths we like to build on this continent.

Here in Canada we got all excited about energy conservation thirty years ago and came up with R2000. We've done squat since, and nobody seems to have noticed, especially the government.


You’re a minor celebrity. Shouldn’t you enlist the help of Ed Begley Jr. for something like this?


Go underground.


Blaming the government is like saying a lack of aspirin causes headaches.

Yes the government could provide more information, but until people really want it (and honestly until it is cheaper so that you will at least break even with your higher intial investment) you aren't going to see a huge rush on green homes. Remember the government can't rate products that don't exist.

Perhaps the best solution would be to create tax incentives that cover the gap between the intial cost and the return on investment. This seemed to work with hybrids.


I live in Montgomery County Maryland, and the county is attempting to mandate that developers make all new construction "green", which will cost developers an estimated $2k-$20k depending on the price of the home.

I have no idea what particular "green" elements would be in those costs, but it might be a place to start. I also have no idea if they've even made it public. But hey, this comment can't be any less useful than what you've got so far!

Chuck Eames

I took a college course in Prescott, AZ 4 years ago with the best teacher. He not only knew all that you are asking, he taught it and his workshop was actually building a house. We, classmates, built the most energy efficient house, with the help of government funding, and then sold it for a nice profit. He does this every year. I learned an amazing bunch of good info on correct and efficient house building.


A utility company used a surprising technique to get customers to voluntarily reduce their electricity consumption, without even specifically asking. All they did was print on bills the average usage of homes on the customer's block. Although this data was anonymous, competitive instincts kicked in, and nearly everyone reduced their usage. Never heard exactly how much, but enough to be newsworthy.

Rafael Cavalcanti

So this is how you're saving the world today, huh? Ponting out an oversight by th government in energy efficiency. Clever :)


Japan - has energy efficient living spaces.
USA - has many large spacious energy wasting homes. 'the american dream - big house'
MIR Space station - home of very efficient living spaces.

It would have to be almost self contained, require little energy to run, and not leak energy through heat, air etc. probably some architects have solved it already, but it may be cost inefficient..


Estonia here. Ex-Soviet, European country. As long as I can remember, energy cost has always been a major aspect of buying/renting a new place. That was even before global warming became a problem.

And our gasoline has cost twice as much as yours for years and years already. We don't complain.

And our taxes are much higher than yours. We pay about 60% of our salaries as tax.

And technology designed and manufacture in Europe, like Sennheiser microphones for example, cost about $100 more in Europe. You pay $200 for EU tech goods that we pay about $300 for.

And you guys have better-looking cars. Ford Mustang and Dodge Charger are much more original, more radical, better looking than the horrible teardrop shapes we get in European cars.

Oh and U.S. cars cost about twice as much here as you'd pay there for one. Latest Mustang starts at $20k there, $40k here.

You know what? Fuck you, guys. Stop complaining. It's a shit-ton-lots worse here.

Air Phloo

We really need every house to actually have a readable energy meter measured in dollars. I think people would do anything in the world to become more energy efficient if they could actually see the money they were spending and the relationship it had to their actions. Instead, most people see their energy bill as more of a fixed cost.

So, I agree the government has the best position to help here.

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