Tranquility houses

I came across this in The Telegraph, of all places! The Tranquility Houses project is very interesting as it seeks to build or renovate houses to have a minimal environmental footprint, principally in terms of energy and water usage, but also taking into account the use of materials to build them and practicality.

One of my dreams is one day to build a house that has a very low or no net energy requirement and with as small an environmental footprint as possible. I don’t know for certain about global warming. On balance I think it is likely, but even if it isn’t, minimising our environmental footprint seems like a good idea to me.

Our houses (rather than cars) account for our largest energy demands as well as water and waste, so I’ve been looking at what I might be able to do at some stage. WeberHaus produce an interesting zero energy house. What I find particularly frustrating is that it can be quite difficult to find out what can be done practically and that there is little explicit cost/benefit analysis.

It is very difficult to find out sensible analysis for alternative electricity and heating sources, most notably wind and solar power. This is also true on a larger scale with the farce over wind farms. It seems to me that government concentrates on “big” solutions rather than helping us modify our houses to be more energy efficient.

Even things like light bulbs have been subject to enormous disinformation. In arriving at the energy saving figures, it was conveniently ignored that the heat given out by incandescent bulbs is not lost, but contributes to heating the house. Also, the brightness of “energy saving” bulbs was over estimated. Also the extra cost and pollution in producing fluorescent bulbs was not taken into account. Hence, the “energy saving” bulbs may not be energy saving at all!

Getting back to Tranquility Houses, it is good to see someone being realistic and practical. What we need is for politicians to stop grandstanding and producing short-term initiatives. We need practical help in modifying our homes, with micro-initiatives and long-term planning. What’s the chance of that? Unfortunately, I think we know the answer.


10 thoughts on “Tranquility houses”

  1. Interesting stuff, Robin. Whether or not folk agree with the global warming is a separate issue, but “green living” surely has got to be a good thing.

    As per your light-bulb example, though, it’s not always a clear-cut matter – what appears to be a green option can, when properly analysed, be found to be worse than what is thought to be a “dirty” option. One of my Christmas pressies was “The Rough Guide to Green Living” (ISBN-10: 1848361076, ISBN-13: 978-1848361072) – it’s full of useful info and there are a few surprises in there too. How accurate the figures are is a moot point, but it’s up-to-date (Nov 2009) and highly recommended.

    1. I totally agree about making an effort to be green. I’ll pop into Waterstones and see if I can get the book. Thanks for the tip.

  2. I wish the idiots had understood the light bulb arguments before they banned 100W incandescents (or maybe they did and it was all just a publicity gesture to appear to be serious about going green). I need them because the damned fluorescent things cause a horrible mains hum which is proving an intractable problem in our house. An awful lot of facts are conveniently swept under the carpet: it isn’t what they say, it’s what they don’t say.
    The same argument applies to my computers: I have two of them running 24/7 which would raise an eyebrow, but the heat liberated is really noticeable, I can lower the heater thermostats considerably – it isn’t wasted.

  3. There is an interesting book that you may be interested in by Nick Rosen-‘How to live off grid’ It is really an exploration of how different people have gone off grid aiming for low enviromental impact. It ranges from yurt dwellers, straw bale housing and everything in between. Certainly it offers food for thought.

  4. One of things that baffles me when speaking of “green” living is why there is no talk about the inefficiency of living in a house in areas where you have llittle or no alternative but to use a car. There are numerious inefficiencies. Laying out infrastructure (electricity, water mains, sewage, landline telephones), the mandatory use of cars for even minor things, heating physically separated buildings, much more wasteful public transport. The list is long and varied.

  5. I think you might like to look at a website called “Tumbleweed Houses”‘- they are compact and terribly efficient, and can be built by owner or by the company, using local or even recycled supplies.
    It’s worth a look at least.

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