Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Conference missed a solution

Thank you to the organizers of the Sun Valley Sustainability Conference. However, I was disappointed but not surprised that the best idea for green construction was not discussed. I am referring to earth-sheltered and earth-berm housing. An idea created out of the first energy crisis of the early '70s, about 5,000 such homes were created, mostly in the Midwest.

Energy requirements and maintenance are reduced by 90 percent. The homes are nestled in the earth where the temperature is a constant 55 degrees F. The homes never need air-conditioning and only need to be heated about 15 degrees. They are tornado-proof, storm-proof and fireproof. Without the constant wear and care of the exterior, maintenance is reduced by 90 percent, thereby eliminating the constant financial drain of a conventional home.

So why is this solution to global warming not discussed in the classrooms and by the architects and builders? Maybe it's because they are a non-consumable product in a capitalist society. The bankers will require 40 percent down, saying there is no resale market established. The architects do not like its design parameters, and the builders sell the customers only what they know and what is easy to sell.

The architecture professors teach only what the market is. Those who say people don't want to live underground have never been in an earth-sheltered home. I asked a panel of builders at the conference if any of them had ever discussed the option of earth-sheltered housing with their clients—none had. If you would like to see a good example, check out the Elkhorn fire station and ask them about their energy and maintenance costs. Earth-sheltered housing is the answer to most everything.

Don Lappin

Sun Valley

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