Friday, June 1, 2007

Choices, choices

If all goes well, and the housing market in San Diego doesn't crash, and our land values aren't blighted by a casino, and all the planets align and we appease the proper gods, then in about three years we will be building our own home on our land in La Center, WA.

Building a home is a monumental undertaking, and even with several years to prepare, making choices is difficult.

We know where we want our home to go, and that's about it. The rest is still up in the air- lots of ideas but many decisions yet to make. Many of those decisions involve how green we want our home to be. Others revolve around what our home will look like.

I'll skip the tedious recitations of square footage and bathroom components to look at the ecological implications.

Unfortunately (and unfairly, it seems) green building is not cheap. Even is an area like the Northwest, where green products are widely available through business such as the Environmental Home Center in Seattle and Environmental Building Supplies in Portland, building a truly green home is still considered a luxury for the upper class.

There are, of course, views to the contrary, and a lot depends on what your idea of "going green" is. Some practices- such as careful siting of the house and placement of windows to maximize passive solar capabilities- cost nothing extra. And some things- such as stone veneers rather than real stone- cost less.

But going the whole nine yards and being as green as you can- that'll cost ya. Recycled timbers? Much more than newly-harvested ones. Wood only from forests certified to use sustainable harvesting methods? Harder to find and more expensive. Plywood without harmful volatile compounds like formaldehyde? Yikes. Geothermal energy systems? Thousands of dollars more than conventional.

It shouldn't be that way- at least in my mind. Building green should be rewarded and be cheaper. In some ways there are rewards- such as tax breaks for using energy-efficient materials and technologies- but there aren't enough rewards yet for most people to consider all the available technologies to reduce our footprint on the planet.

Luckily, in many areas, interest in green building is growing. Hopefully, in a few years, the demand will lead to a drop in prices and an increase in available options...hopefully in time for building our house!

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