Thursday, August 18, 2011
"Green" housing is uglier than a bowling shoe
(picture courtesy of Effingham Now, a Savannah Morning News publication)
I don't know Charles Davis from Adam. I'm sure he and I could have a beer or whatever he likes to drink and get along just fine. But Mr. Davis, I'm sorry; your "green" home may have locked down the championship belt for the ugliest thing in all of Effingham County, Georgia
Normally, I am very much in favor of anything that helps me reduce my "contribution" to the cost of Georgia Power's new nuclear plant being built by another company. I am not anti-nuke - it is a viable "clean" energy source, more viable than most. It is the deception by Georgia Power and their political class enablers in Atlanta that bother me just a smidge. So when I saw a story in Effingham Now about a new "net-zero energy" house built in my hometown of Guyton, Georgia, I was curious. I would have started to read the story, but my eyes immediately were locked on a picture of the house on the paper's front page; locked because it was as if I were watching a mash-up of a train wreck, the Hindenburg crash, and a Jean Claude Van Damme movie.
I couldn't stop looking at it. The horror! Guyton's "green" home was net-zero energy because energy has enough sense to stay away from such ugliness. Half of what I was looking at was a piece of a red storage shed, or perhaps an old British phone booth on steroids, with an umbrella sticking out from the top (this turned out to be the "guest house", about the size of my bathroom). The other half resembled part of a double-wide plucked from Low Ground Road just around the corner from my house, tricked out with some fancy new siding. This is the home of the future?
After rinsing my eyes out and taking them to the garage to find some sandpaper so I could buff out any remnants of the hideousness, I returned to the article to see who in their right mind would build such a thing. It was, indeed, Mr. Davis, president of Earth Comfort Company in Rincon. Davis' company makes energy-efficient buildings, so naturally he wanted to live in an energy-efficient home. Nothing wrong with someone wanting to do that. Don't try to tell me, though, that it is the "home of the future."
First of all, the look. Ugly things work for some folks; some people like well-done steaks, and Paulina Porizkova married Ric Ocasek. But most people want a house to look like, well, a house. There are already a myriad of styles of housing and some degree of beauty in most. I'm sure Mr. Davis thinks there is plenty of beauty in his pair of boxes, but folks I know want a home to look like home. To be sure, the pictures of the interior of the house were very nice as it was decked out with furniture from IKEA, which has surpassed ABBA as Sweden's greatest export. When Mr. Davis and his partners in the construction of his Frankenstein (modular home builder Clayton Homes) figure out how to pair their greenness with an exterior that looks like a place where the kids could play a one-person game of catch with a tennis ball, then the "home of the future" talk can start. At least it can when the price comes down.
The total cost of land and Mr. Davis' 1,300 square feet (1,000 for the main shoe box, 300 for the guest Jack-In-The-Box): $256,000. When you can buy the same size home in parts of Effingham County for less than half that (40% of that in some areas), you are not marketing your product to very many people. True, you have "net-zero energy" costs, at least you do in the beginning. The picture from the article that stood out for me included an executive from Georgia Power. He will deny it, but it looked as if he were salivating at the prospect of finding some way, any way, to get money out of Mr. Davis' pocket book. It is the modus operandi of monopolistic utilities: preach conservation, then find an excuse to raise your rates because too people are actually conserving.
If Mr. Davis and his ilk (miss hearing you use that word in Memphis, Mike Fleming) bring down the cost, then "green" housing might catch on, even if it does look like a bad Lady Gaga costume. And by bringing costs down, I do not mean via hand outs or tax breaks from the government, which fail every time (see the recent slew of bankruptcies in the "green" energy industry, despite untold millions in government help). That said, I would never wish any ill will on someone trying to make it in a business in which they believe, so good luck Mr. Davis. I just wish you'd build a DaVinci rather than a pointy public art sculpture next time.