Wednesday, September 23, 2009

--Chain of Ecohomes Competition

A real opportunity is being missed as we speak. Greensburg, Kansas is rebuilding after a devastating tornado. The effort is striving toward making Greensburg the greenest city in America. Part of that effort involves a competition to design a new type of inexpensive housing for local residents. Here are two of my favorite entries:These two designs are relatively simple in origin. Indeed, they are classified as "rustic" on the competition's website. Predictably, however, they are being trounced in the competition. By this...thing:Why does this matter? Because the people who vote in this competition are architects, not regular people. People who know this competition is happening are subsets of architects who are interested in green architecture. Because this group of people has trained itself to see "green" not as an option for regular houses, but rather as a set of aesthetic choices all its own, "green architecure" ghettoizes itself into irrelevancy among a distinct and minor subset of the home building market. No. one. wants. these. houses.

Here are pictures of three houses that are roughly equal in their energy gains from emphasis on green design. But when asked to choose among hundreds of designs--designs that are submitted by a self-selecting group of eco-conscious architects--the larger green architecture community selects for homes that the market does not demand.

Why don't people want to buy green homes? Because "green" too often means a literally green travesty like you see above. Homebuyers are terrified of these monstrosities because they doubt they'll be able to resell them in the future. But if you were to construct those houses at the top of this post and en masse, then people will see their energy savings combined with the resale value...and you wouldn't be able to build enough of them.

Too bad, Greensburg, Kansas. Because of decisions like these, in fifty years you'll be an comical retrospective on stupid ideas from 2009 about what the future might look like.

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