Yes, buildings are the biggest energy hogs in this country (double that of transportation and industry), but what can we do about it? Can we keep living conditions high and build for lower energy use?
Pioneers in this realm have always been met with skepticism. Only ten years ago, if you announced that you were going to build your home or office to LEED standards, neighbors would look at you like you were from Mars. But, a billion square feet of LEED-certified building space later, and asking for LEED, or at least a more generic, 'green building' is the norm, from Wall Street to Main Street.
Now, green building pioneers are throwing down a challenge: We cannot continue business as usual. We need our buildings to stave off the worst calamities of climate change. We may applaud ourselves for building homes that use 15% less energy than standard (EnergyStar) but we need to reduce energy use in our buildings on the order of 90% (and do it without sacrificing quality). Challenges like Architecture 2030, and new rating systems like Passive House, a near-zero energy home standard, are the next frontier.
Americans like a challenge. We will take an inspiring example like Germany's Passiv Haus to the next level. Last year's SmartHome built at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History proved that it's possible to rapid prototype a completely new concept for a home-and get it designed, permitted and built in a couple of months. The SmartHome showed what happens when a few ingenious minds think up the future of green building in Cleveland, set their sights high (the house will go for Passive House rating) and refuse to take no for an answer.
GreenCityBlueLake Institute Director David, writing about the experience of building the SmartHome in his prize-winning paper for the American Association of Museum, had this to say:
It turned abstract policy discussions into a tangible exhibit that helped people see the opportunities inherent in transitioning to a low-carbon future. At a time when public opinion polls showed a declining understanding of climate science in the U.S., it was important to create educational experiences that helped mainstream audiences realize that dramatic reductions of carbon emissions were possible.
Read Beach's first prize paper, "PNC SmartHome: An Inspirational Exhibit of Extreme Energy Efficiency and Carbon Reduction"