Thursday, May 29, 2008

Free Green home plans, and open source green technology

The Free Green project is pretty interesting. I'm completely in agreement with their mission: "At FreeGreen we hope to encourage progressive building practices by making green home designs free for everyone." What they're doing is providing free house plans which are 'green' -- meaning energy efficient, healthy materials, etc.

You can download the plans for free and take them directly to a builder to arrange construction. They also sell green building products, offer design services, etc.

Despite the zero cost do not confuse this operation with open source. The license these plans are published under do not fit the real open source model. However this is still a very cool service.

UPDATE: I downloaded one of their plans to check out the service.. it's pretty impressive though I have no way to know if these plans are enough to go to a house builder. One thing to be aware of is to download plans you have to register, giving your email address and a couple other bits of identification.

To download plans you're asked to make some selections in a form that describes the sort of house you're looking for. It seems they mean to allow you to search through hundreds of house plans to select the one most fitting your needs. Today there are only two plans available, one for a typical 3-5 person family with a two-car garage, the other a "suburban loft" style home.

The plans download includes three PDF fils: a 'Welcome' package, an energy analysis, and the actual construction plans.

The welcome package is very extensive and gives great information about building a 'green' home and some items to think about. For example there's a really interesting point to ponder about green home financing. It's often thought the price for a green building is higher than a nongreen home, but they suggest a way to reframe this question. The real issue, they suggest, is the cash flow. The vast majority of home purchases are on a mortgage so while your monthly mortgage payment would likely be higher due to the higher purchase price, your other payments (utilities etc) would be lower plus you might easily qualify for a government tax break. The trick is to make the utility cost savings offset the increased mortgage payment.

The welcome package also contains a LEED Certification checklist that's already filled in with the LEED points. LEED? They also include a few pages describing the LEED certification process and how to interpret the checklist.

The energy analysis demonstrates one of the values in potential energy savings. In the plan I downloaded the baseline energy use of a typical house of that size was said to cost over $2,700 per year, however they describe two scenarios of lower energy use with a final cost of either $1,700 per year or $1,000 per year. The latter involves building a photovoltaic system into the house.

The plans document is a detailed walk-through of construction techniques, requirements, LEED certification details etc. There are many pages of engineering drawings showing construction details at all levels from overall floor plan to the inner construction of the walls and more. However since I've never read a set of house construction plans I have no idea whether these are sufficient for a builder to construct a house.

The welcome package suggests the plans are sufficient and that it will help to look for a builder possessing one of these certifications: LEED for Homes, NAHB Green Building Program, or EnergyStar

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

re: No Gas Day May 15th

I saw No Gas Day May 15th referencing an activist plea posted on .. essentially the plea goes that if we all were to not buy gasoline on a given day, that it would cause a blip which would get the attention of the gas companies, and it would make a big impact on gasoline prices. A bit of yahoogling showed me why this sounded familiar, the same message has been in e-mail chain letters going back to 1999. It's been my opinion all along that this cannot have any lasting effect, and yahoogling "no gas day" turns up a bunch of articles saying the same doubt.

There's a general principle here with a couple other examples besides No Gas Day. Let's start with the examples:-

Earth Day, April 22: The agenda is to raise the importance of the Earth in peoples mind. T-shirts with pictures of the planet reading "Love Your Mother" are very popular.

Christmas, December 22: Supposedly a spiritual celebration that's about peace and love and compassion.

International Workers Day, May 1 .. Labor Day, early September: A day of recognition of workers, the rights of labor, etc.

Iodays labor union protest against the war, May 1, 2008: Labor unions on the West Coast have organized an anti-war protest aimed at shutting down the ports for one day. These same labor unions staged anti-war protests 5 years ago in the beginning of the war, and those protests incited massive police activity to shut down the protests.

A common thread is to anoint a given day for recognition of a given agenda with the goal that this agenda will be adopted by everybody because they were exposed to the agenda for a day. Since I'm interested in the agenda of ending gasoline use, let's focus on that..

There are lots of great reasons to stop using gasoline. Gasoline is the root of problems from greater incidence of diseases, environmental degradation, foreign policy disasters around the world, the resource wars in the middle east, and unless our society gets serious about finding alternatives to oil the peak oil situation is going to force us back to the stone age. So, yeah, I'm in support of the general idea of ending gasoline use.

The United States used an average of 385 million US liquid gallons (1.46 gigalitres) of gasoline (petrol) each day in 2005, amounting to 44% of the total U.S. consumption of petroleum products. It's inconceivable that avalanche of oil use could be affected by a single day's blip from a few people passing around emails getting a few other people to stop buying oil. Even if the email campaign were effective, even if "No Gas Day" were to become as widely known as "Earth Day", would it make any difference?

The root problem is the addiction to oil. Once No Gas Day is over the participants will have a car with fewer gallons of gasoline and they'll still eventually buy some gasoline.

What's really necessary is the meme many were saying on Earth Day, "Make Earth Day every Day". So.. please.. if you are going to celebrate this day, then make "No Gas Day Every Day"!!!

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