Thursday, June 14, 2007

Two Houses

Look over the descriptions of the following two houses and see if you can tell which belongs to an environmentalist.

HOUSE # 1:
A 20-room mansion (not including 8 bathrooms) heated by natural gas. Add on a pool (and a pool house) and a separate guest house all heated by gas. In ONE MONTH ALONE this mansion consumes more energy than the average American household in an ENTIRE YEAR. The average bill for electricity and
natural gas runs over $2,400.00 per month. In natural gas alone (which last time we checked was a fossil fuel), this property consumes more than 20 times the national average for an American home. This house is not in a northern or Midwestern "snow belt," either. It's in the South.

HOUSE # 2:
Designed by an architecture professor at a leading national university, this house incorporates every "green" feature current home construction can provide. The house contains only 4,000 square feet (4 bedrooms) and is nestled on arid high prairie in the American southwest. A central closet in the house holds geothermal heat pumps drawing ground water through pipes sunk 300 feet into the ground. The water (usually 67 degrees F.)

heats the house in winter and cools it in summer. The system uses no fossil fuels such as oil or natural gas, and it consumes 25% of the electricity required for a conventional heating/cooling system. Rainwater from the roof is collected and funneled into a 25,000 gallon underground cistern. Wastewater from showers, sinks and toilets goes into underground purifying tanks and then into the cistern. The collected water then irrigates the land surrounding the house. Flowers and shrubs native to the area blend the property into the surrounding rural landscape.

HOUSE # 1 (20 room energy guzzling mansion) is outside of Nashville, Tennessee. It is the abode of that renowned environmentalist (and filmmaker) Al Gore.

HOUSE # 2 (model eco-friendly house) is on a ranch near Crawford, Texas. Also known as "the Texas White House," it is the private residence of the President of the United States, George W. Bush.

So whose house is gentler on the environment? Yet another story you WON'T hear on CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, MSNBC or read about in the New York Times or the Washington Post. Indeed, for Mr. Gore, it's truly "an inconvenient truth."

I think I just threw up a little in my mouth. On the heels of yesterdays hoorah for Gore's solar panels, this is a sad find. Link at the bottom goes to the Snopes article, if you want to verify for yourself.

More curious than ever what other upgrades have been made to the Gore home, I found this measly list from truth and progress:

  • install a geothermal system that will, among other things, drastically reduce the cost of heating his pool.
  • upgrade windows and ductwork.
  • install more energy-efficient light bulbs.
  • create a rainwater collection system for irrigation and water management.

Commenters at treehugger had these great things to say:
zorn says:
wasting green energy heating a pool is STILL wasting energy.
Jim says:
That's good stuff, but I wonder how much more energy has been wasted retrofitting this stuff as replacements for things that didn't need replacing?
Eg. how much energy to create a complete set of new windows?
Anonymous says:
Improvements done using sums of monies the average person couldn't hope for.
I would love to have a nice sized home at some point in my life, with a few bedrooms and a yard. At some point you need to evaluate how much is wasted (or wasteful) space. Especially when your career has taken you in the direction his has. >sigh<

link: Urban Legends Reference Pages: A Tale of Two Houses


I. M. Bitter said...


So Bush has my dream house. Except mine is going to be all pimped out with tech stuff.

That's really funny about Al Gore, especially since having recently watched 'An Inconvenient Truth' I was a new convert (to Gore). Well at leaset he's spreading the word and raising awareness...

Columbia said...

lol! Yeah, 'Truth is a persuasive movie. DW and I saw him lecture at a teacher's convention (which was a live version of the movie) and were sold. Good though that he's keeping himself in check, even if only via peer pressure.

kitty said...

geothermal is a term that people fling around these days. Several years ago we wanted to use it on a project where the client was an environmentalist.

we looked into it but the cost for drilling that far down in the earth was prohibitive. You have to drill way the heck down there.

Maybe things have changed since then? I hope so. In general, architects and builders are conscious and want to all they can to help. The amount of building waste during construction, too, is a problem. Hopefully more clients will request green items, like solar panels.

great post! :-)