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GUEST COMMENTARY: More efficient buildings can reduce energy usage

Friday, May 3, 2013 | 6:13 p.m. CDT

Think about it — through thoughtful efficiency and elements of various styles of design we can eliminate or significantly reduce, to the point of near elimination, our electrical and some other utility resource usage. There is no longer a good reason to design or build any of our future homes and buildings otherwise. Buildings, as a category, are the largest energy users and carbon emitters in the world when compared to transportation and industry — specifically energy for heating, cooling and lighting. Building code upgrades will become "no-brainers" and will become embraced by all in our community.

Here are some U.S. Green Building Council facts:

Peoples’ Visioning net-zero educational presentati

What: Peoples’ Visioning presentation of the competition-winning, net-zero energy, affordable home to be built this summer on West Ash Street in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.

When: 6:30 p.m. Monday, program starts at 7 p.m.

Where: Friends Room, Columbia Public Library

Call: 777-2216



  • Buildings account for about 39 percent carbon dioxide emissions, versus 33 percent for transportation and 29 percent for industry
  • Buildings use about 70 percent of the electricity load in the U.S.
  • Buildings put out 40 percent of carbon emissions
  • Buildings contribute 65 percent of all waste output

These numbers quickly show why we need great strides in building design and how game-changing building using sustainability and thoughtful, net-zero energy designs will be. This is something Peoples’ Visioning had as a main and primary early focus on how we would propose Columbia could make present and future building and construction game-changers. This is a large part of how we would propose to take us, easily, to achieving a high level of efficiency in combination with active generation of renewable energy, on-site, in a lift-all-boats, safety focused, distributed generation model to quickly help achieve a high Renewable Energy Standard such as we proposed in December of 2012.

Sustainability with better design would help our community in countless ways. Among them, it would keep far more of our energy dollars for finite, dirty, dangerous energy sources here at home to be sourced only as truly cleaner, healthier, renewable sources.

Monta Welch is the founder and president of the Columbia Climate Change Coalition and Interfaith Care for Creation.


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Comments

Mark Foecking May 4, 2013 | 3:04 a.m.

Insulation and weatherstripping are the most cost-effective ways to lower building energy use, and it's something that homeowners can easily do themselves. New homes tend to be quite a bit better as far as energy use per square foot, however, they tend to have more square footage, so they use as much or more energy than older homes. People's choices have a lot to do with it also. Letting the temperature of a house swing with the seasons costs nothing and can save a significant amount of energy.

A problem is that a lot of poorer households, that live in older houses, get assistance for their energy bills and don't have a financial motive to conserve. I don't know of a good or fair way to combat that, but it's a factor when we talk about energy use and cost.

New building codes can help, but reducing energy use meaningfully will require addressing existing buildings, since new buildings aren't a large percantage of total building stock.

DK

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith May 4, 2013 | 8:04 a.m.

In addition to the items Mark mentions, we tend to live in individual, detached dwellings, rather than "attached" quarters. For Americans this style of living is traditional, but not so in some other "technologically advanced" countries.

The prospect of multiple-unit dwellings may be an anathema to many of us, but more recent building designs and planned communities have shown that multi-family living can succeed and can even be attractive - making far better use of available land, building materials, and better use of the energy required to maintain the facilities.

Obviously, we aren't going to bulldoze what we now have, but we might pay more attention to what we propose to build in the future.

I continue to be concerned about how our energy situation is being discussed: there is far too much of the "my [our] way, or the highway" attitude. A rational solution to our problems MUST involve compromises between energy production and distibution on one hand, and conservation of energy on the other hand.

Will this debate continue in the dark [at nightime], while either shivering or sweating [depending upon whether it happens to be very cold or very hot outside]?

(Report Comment)
frank christian May 4, 2013 | 11:39 a.m.

A beloved Councilman of sometime ago, astutely stated, You can insulate a house every place to be found, but if the inhabitant won't close the windows, it all will be for naught.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith May 5, 2013 | 10:09 a.m.

@ Frank Christian:

Old saying: "You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink."

[I prefer W. C. Fields' perversion of that saying - which you know would have comething to do with the consumption of alcohol: "You can lead a horse to drink, but you cannot make it water."]

(Report Comment)

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