What color GREEN are you talking about, bud?

12 Sep

Last time you were here, I took a shot at LEED.

Okay, some say I emptied the clip at it. Boo hoo.

I’ve been hearing from a lot of “Industry people” since.

The responses are running about 70/30 “Are you nuts? I never would have said that out loud…”

Look, I ain’t skeered…

The deal is that I’m here to keep you out of harm’s way by making what are sometimes obvious points, even if I have to use a hammer.

If Planning and Zoning guys or LEED Reviewers don’t like me, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.

Which leads to today’s “$64 Thousand dollar question”:

I get asked all the time by families WHY “if ISBUs are so strong” they aren’t just accepted as suitable building materials?

It’s not just ISBUs. You get the same questioning about Earthbags, strawbales and other forms of alternative housing.

Basically, it’s ignorance and a lack of common sense.

Yes, ignorance. The problem with using a “new” material usually boils down to (a) the powers that be must determine a way to profit from it’s use, and then (b) regulate it’s use to insure they don’t get cheated out of profit.

That said, the next criteria is common sense;

Does the building material lend itself to this use without violating it’s basic design specifications and capabilities?

That is; Is this steel really steel? If so, can it really hold up the roof and keep out the cold?

How do we measure that? Um… usually, it’s with industry standardized tests and certifications that define a product and it’s capabilities. But, those tests are expensive. It can literally run into millions of dollars to get all the right certifications to enable the use of an alternative material (like an ISBU or even an earthbag), under existing or amended code guidelines, without reinventing the wheel.

That means that until someone spends every penny they ever earned getting these certifications, you’re not going to see an ISBU house being built (in what seems like a few days) right next door to you, in most parts of Suburbia.

I recently ran a post about a guy who looked at housing law to qualify and then occupy a home in Texas.

People called him a squatter, a “low-life” and several other colorful terms not appropriate for a family blog. But the reality is that thee neighbors apparently hated him because he found a way to get what they themselves had… for far less than they themselves paid – by working thru the system.

It was bias and maybe even envy. Plain and simple.

That same bias applies to most alternative building processes when you actually try to enter a community to build a home from one of them.

Owen, over at Earthbagbuilding.wordpress.com just tackled those questions by posting his top ten list:

“10 Reasons Why People Don’t Build With Natural Materials”

“Have you ever puzzled over why so many people choose to buy homes at outrageous prices that require 20-30 year mortgages even though they are often poorly built, made with materials that offgas hazardous substances and readily burn in house fires? In addition, these conventional houses are usually energy inefficient, require expensive ongoing maintenance, cause untold environmental damage and are largely devoid of redeeming value. Why doesn’t everyone switch to simpler, lower cost natural building methods such as earthbag, strawbale, stone, pole building and adobe?”

Okay, so he doesn’t mention ISBUs, but he’s still on to something. 😉

Click here to read the rest of his post.

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2 Responses to “What color GREEN are you talking about, bud?”

  1. Jeremy Schaller September 12, 2011 at 9:33 am #

    LEED is an association concerned about one item only; regulation for profit. If they were truly concerned about environmental impact, efficiency and “green” methodologies, they wouldn’t charge between $2500 & $7500 to run your homes parameters through proprietary software and spit out a certificate at the end.
    My wife and I built a “Net Zero” home a couple years ago and were asked to go for LEED Certification, and while we would have easily achieved Platinum status, the only people who would benefit from this are the architects and builders who then use it for a feather in their cap. We did however go for HERS (Home Energy Rating System) in order to enter a Net Zero home contest. The costs for this was $3500 but we immediately got a tax credit of $4700 for having an Energy Star home and we won second place in the contest which paid out $10,000. The HERS certification was definitely worth the investment! FYI: our HERS rating was a 4 for those interested.

  2. Dr. Tom September 17, 2011 at 6:05 am #

    Here’s the deal. Your E-book is worth every penny. I can’t start this project until early November, but I am going to pay the consulting fee next month and get some (almost) free advice.

    I like the blog so much that I’ll host it for you if you are getting low on funds. I am too, but I need you around while I put these boxes together.

    a hui hou
    T

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