Green building is spinning the wrong way…..
Recently Massachusetts passed what is know as the Stretch codes. They are additions to the existing Energy Code which pushes a more stringent code requirements for all new construction and renovations in the regions that adopted this code. The goal of course is to increase our focus on energy efficiency. Of course the sidebar to this is added cost. Cost will go up considerably to meet these new requirements. Pennsylvania last year passed a requirement to install sprinkler systems in all new homes. In areas that well output is limited it can be required that a second well is installed to supply the sprinklers in the event of a fire. Again this is a huge cost increase. The laws of unintended consequences apply here.
New homes are 100% more efficient that old homes even before these code changes. Watch your local papers and read about house fires, what homes are burning? is it new construction or old homes? So while all this good legislation is being passed to increase the efficiency and safety of new construction the added cost is putting home ownership further and further out of reach. Where do people on limited budgets go when they cannot afford new construction? Well of course to older more affordable housing. Our communities are burdened with old homes, these home take up valuable land space in prime areas. These homes area also the equivalent of driving gas guzzlers with no emissions control from the 1970’s. Meanwhile we are watching people purchase farm land in more rural areas to build on because it is more affordable. This reduces Green space, effects water tables, increases erosion and decreases uninhabited natural space.
So what is the cost of these new Green Building initiatives. More people living in more old homes that are as far from Green as you can imagine, increased urban sprawl, longer drive distances that increase fuel consumption etc etc. I am not so sure our efforts to be GREEN are as GREEN as we want them to be.
So I ask this question. Is all this new legislation to protect the environment really helping, or is it contributing to a bigger problem.