Friday, July 16, 2010

And the Answer is....

Yesterday's post ended with a question; "Does the Municipal District have a clue?" The question is how do they actually have a viable plan to reduce greenhouse gases to 33% of 2007 levels by 2020, and 80% of 2007 levels by 2050?

The answer is.... drrrrumrrrroll.... apparently not.

The very pleasant young lady at the door asked if we were willing to cut our energy usage 30% by 2020? I told her we'd already cut it, to about 12-15% of the average US energy usage.

She asked how we did it. I told her we'd moved into a 250 sq foot house. Her jaw dropped. Her next question was, 'Had we built that house?' I told her no, building code doesn't allow a dwelling that small, so to reduce our footprint we'd moved into an RV and retrofitted it with extra insulation and energy efficient appliances.

Her next question was, 'Building codes won't let you build a 250 sq ft house?' I told her no, not in BC (or most other jurisdictions for that matter). I went on to tell her about the Tiny Home movement, based on two premises, environmental consciousness and voluntary simplicity. And that it was a movement primarily fueled by young professionals, not by the un-housed, under-housed or the poverty-stricken.

I went on and walked around the room, looking at the posters. One excellent initiative suggested was to require that all new homes be built to seamlessly incorporate solar water heaters, should the home owners decide to add one. The additional cost at the time of construction would be about $800. That seemed like a positive step which was sensible and concrete, not wishful thinking that people will drive less in a rural community spread over a huge area, or that power usage will magically drop if we set a goal.

Two men came in. By this time I was at the far end of the room, sitting at table, filling in a form. I heard the young lady ask them, "Why can't you build a small house in BC?"

"There's no minimum size for homes in BC," one said. "Build as small as you like."

"250 sq ft?" she asked?

"Well, there are minimum sizes for the ROOMS!" he said incredulously, "a bedroom has to be 10 x 12 ... and there has to be another room of at least..." He had suddenly lost volume and I couldn't hear what he said. But I distinctly heard him say "Huts for the homeless." And then he laughed.

I completed my form, and came home. Once I'd calmed down I wrote a note to the pleasant young organizer, and sent her some links:

The Small House Society.

The so-called Pocket Neighbourhoods of small "jewel-box" homes which have quickly become not only ecological but community showpieces. 

And to the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company and Jay Shafer's lovely little homes.

Is there no way to show town and city governments that increasing density by grouping several small energy-efficient homes on one or two lots is a viable option for improving the carbon footprint and creating richer environments where people can thrive? Or is it only the dollar that speaks any more?

Take a look at a video of Jay Shafer's 100 sq ft home.

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