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Rating system for eco-friendly homes... Your thoughts?  RSS feed

 
Darryl Roederer
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Hey everyone!
First off, I'm posting this in the cob section because it gets the most traffic, but I'd like to propose an idea that would give a simple rating system to ALL structures that expresses just how eco-friendly it is in one simple line of data. I'd like everyones input on this idea as well as help developing it.

I got this idea the other day when I saw a local home builders television commercial touting the eco-friendliness and environmentally responsible method in which they constructed homes... I checked out their web site and learned that there was little truth behind those claims. While sourcing local lumber and adding additional insulation to the homes they build gets them good marks in my book, it had nothing to do with saving the planet.

Additionally, the term eco-friendly is relative to so many different things, and it has so many broad meanings that in reality, it has little practical application to regular folks outside of our "true eco" community. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a standard rating system we could use like other fields do... Like for example, A+, 100%, R-36, 7 out of 10, etc. When you hear those terms, you instantly know what they mean. An A+ is better than an F, 100% is better than 20%, and so on.

Naturally, when talking about something as encompassing as a whole house, we would need a scale that's a little more detailed than a simple grade or percentage to explain the list of factors that make a structure eco friendly, and this is where I'm seeking input.

Some of the factors that define eco-friendly:

*The environmental impact of the build (to the land, the community, etc. Including waste disposal, water sourcing, etc)
*The carbon footprint of the construction (including materials transportation, materials production, etc)
*The energy requirements of the completed structure to sustain it's inhabitants (passive, grid tied, solar, wood burning, etc)
*The eco-friendliness of the construction materials (cement, asphalt shingles, cob, straw bale, etc)
And so on
And so forth.....

Wouldn't it be nice if all of these factors could be plugged into a spread-sheet and given a numeric value that had real meaning and could convey solid data about just how friendly, sustainable, and green a building truly is?

In my mind, I'm seeing a 3 part value... Something along the lines of 10/A+/100 for a perfect eco home, where a McMansion might get a rating of 1/F-/12, or something like that. I see a use in putting together such a scale, but I'm asking for help to gather some hard and fast rules about what the numbers and ratings would mean and how they would apply to different structures.

If it's a stupid idea, feel free to tell me so and I'll let the idea die on the vine. Otherwise, your input would be appreciated.

 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Darryl,

Before I go into this in depth...

How much research have you done on:

" LEED certification of architecture,"

"Greenwashing," (what your add was doing...)

Natural vs Green vs Sustainable..

Carbon Foot Print

Sustainable product vs. sustainable system vs. sustainable manufacture (In other words, does the "means, methods, and materials actually provide a natural, sustainable and environmentally appropriate combination. Does the company making and/or apply these methods "realistically" support these standards, and goals.)


In closing, you are one of thousands asking these questions, and finding the organizations like LEED and many more are a "greenwash" front for major corporation and basically building modalities that are not that much different than the norm for post IR architecture (IR: industrial revolution.) Pushing back we should all do, yet these companies have huge lobby budgets and grass root efforts are just now starting.

If I can make a suggestion, by all means read whatever you can on the subject, but focus less on a rating system and actually facilitating the proper practices. This will inturn do more for "role modeling" proper sustainable modalities in means, methods and materials, over what is being done. Rating systems are great, yet like grades in school, are seldom even close to the actual viability of an individual or a methodology.

Regards,

j
 
Darryl Roederer
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Jay,
I understand where you're coming from. Infact, it's for these very reasons I'm making this proposal here on Permies. WE need a rating system that gives us HONEST information. I'd have little success proposing these ideas to the greenwashing cookie-cutter McMansion builders and their lobbyists because they'd hate the idea... Or at least they'd water it down to the point that the values would have little practical meaning.

On the other hand, if those of us who live and/or appreciate the eco lifestyle developed our own scales and measurements for eco-friendliness, and those measurements could be evenly applied to any structure out there, then it has an honest chance of actually meaning something.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hello All,

I understand your premiss, yet must suggest that it is most likely in vain on the grander scale of things for the following reasons:

1. Compliance.

If a scaling system does not have laws behind it (like LEED Certification is getting and even mandating in some areas unfortunately) they have little or no impact. If a 501c3 is started most funding(80%) goes to administration, and technical support, not into the educational elements of a grading system, assistance in compliance, etc.

2, Consistency in the range of compliance.

Without the laws, and/or governing body there is little consistency in how thoroughly a structure complies to the many levels that is required to establish a good ratings system. Without this consistency, again you end up with a devalued and impractical syste.

3. Economics of Cost and efficiency.

Having a set of guidelines to build to is wonderful in theory, yet in practicality there are so many variables to consider that a voluntary system does not really have logistical viability. Focusing on using materials that are sustainable and natural, come from within 50 miles of the building site, and related steps will to 10 more to achieve a "green," natural and sustainable building.

I will own this is a subjective conversation, and there are a broad range of viewpoints and consideration. Nevertheless, in the 35 plus years of being in and around the natural-traditional building field, I have seen systems like this come and go with little tangible results.

Regards,

j
 
Zach Muller
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Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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I have thought a lot about this type of thing while studying leed and sustainability and I do not think your idea is stupid at all, there is just so much that needs to go into a rating, and the usage of a rating once it is established. One thing that I found useful and important is emergy which is a word used a lot by David Holmgren. Humans in our current status cannot agree on much of anything, let alone anything regarding money, cost, worth.

For this reason it is important to boil things down to thermodynamics, which will be the ultimate judge in energy use, waste, efficiency.
Different climates require different techniques, so an underground house in dry Phoenix has a completely different energy efficiency profile than an underground house here in humid oklahoma.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Zach,

As a builder for some time, perhaps my perspective of this is slightly different. Nothing here we are discussing is "stupid." However, much of it, other than for scientific quantification, is it practical.


I read both your, and Darryl's reasoning which is logical and applicable in understanding quantifiers of "this compared to that" scenarios...it is not practical.

Now, for both of you (and any other readers that take a counter view to what I am sharing) please lets, for a few postings, describe how you are going to implement such a program, fund it, administrate over it, give it "teeth" so it becomes applied in "real world" application with enough volume to generate comparable data sets, while also providing the consumer of this "rating system" with tangible fiscal asset beyond the "feel good," for doing the conscientious thing sustainably for the planet. Without this the entire concept of a "rating system" is moot. LEED is doing it and has a huge fiscal and industrial engine behind it, (main part of the issue as it is generated by industry not the consumers or ecologist/permaculturist.)

As a builder, I wish all my competitors had the burden on them I place on myself. If "building codes" included a clear and definitive minimum for sustainable, natural, and environmentally sound building practices, I for one would be elated. The building industry and the manufactures behind them (Georgia Pacific, General Electric, Dow Corning, American Cyanamid, Owens Corning, etc etc) will never stand for it.

So I am really clear, I would love a rating system that worked, was applicable, governed well, and provided good guidance in sustainable, natural, and environmentally sound building practices for the construction industry and their clients, or any builder. With everything else that needs to happen first...this is not high on my list of things to put energy into at this moment. I have a hard enough time just keeping LEED from running away with its self and making my job harder and actually out of compliance with what would be "honestly" sustainable.

Regards,

j
 
Zach Muller
gardener
Posts: 778
Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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bike books chicken dog forest garden urban
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Thanks for qualified responses jay, and for me this is a subjective conversation just as you have stated. I am not a seasoned professional as you apparently are and will take your words on leed and add them to my strictly research knowledge of it. My understanding of leed, based on what I have read and been told is that it is not a true measure of sustainability or anything for that matter, but more like an arm of a green washing industrial complex, which seems supported by your description. It is a top down system, which is why it currently is not working for real efficiency or sustainability. It's a complex marketing tool.

I was responding to the op about how the idea of a bottom up rating system is not stupid, but meant to imply that in my opinion it is not feasible, because of the variables.

For me there is no reason to pontificate on how to implement such a program since we already have thermodynamics and emergy as tools to gauge energy in and out. A voluntary rating system may require that we change economic systems, or human behavior, I am not sure. That's why thermodynamics is useful, it's completely involuntary, our systems on earth will always be within its parameters.

When available energy gets low, more efficient buildings, materials, and techniques will rise to the top because they have to, until then we will have a lot of extra energy that will be transferred around throughout the system and wasted.

 
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