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Republicans Aligning on Climate Change
I read [Chuck Kutscher’s] piece in SOLAR TODAY’s
January/February issue [“The Debate Is Over (Or Is It?)”]
with a great deal of interest. Your conclusion that tackling
climate change will require a bipartisan effort is the premise
we’ve been operating on for 14 years. I’m glad to report that
there are signs of change in the Republican Party. Popular
governors like Jon Huntsman of Utah and Tim Pawlenty
of Minnesota are making environmental protection and
battling climate change a key priority in their speeches and
platforms. A number of conservative opinion makers, like
David Brooks, David Frum and Joe Scarborough, are talking about the party’s need to “get with the program.” The
Young Republican National Committee has issued an energy and environment platform paper that is clean and green.
And all along, Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP) has been nudging and prodding all factions of
the party to return the GOP to its great conservation tradition. The past 30 years haven’t been pretty. We believe
we are at a tipping point and will see the party join in a
bipartisan effort to fight climate change and address other
pressing environmental issues soon.
Robert C. Sisson
Back to the House of the Future
In the March issue, [the feature “Back to the Future,”
by Seth Masia, described Next West House as] “The first
LEED Platinum, net-zero-carbon house in Colorado —
and maybe in the nation...” I’m not one
to nitpick, but just for the record, Archi-
tectural & Environmental Associates
Inc. commissioned the first U.S. Green
Building Council LEED Platinum, net-
zero-carbon house in Arizona in Febru-
ary 2008. The home has been featured
on the Discovery Channel’s “Invention
Nation” and was featured in both Home
Power and Home Energy magazines.
Environmental associates inc.
Homeowners need not spend lots of
money to move toward carbon neutrality,
one reader notes.
You are kidding, right? You are
showcasing a house that is “carbon
neutral” and only cost $1.66 million
to build (“Back to the Future,” March
8 May 2009 SOLAR TODAY
issue)? Sure the project makes for pretty pictures, but the
embedded message is that it is completely unaffordable to
set this as a goal.
Why don't you showcase more affordable projects
that have achieved almost the same [low-energy] ratings,
though not perfect, for a way lower cost? Even better, showcase a sequence of projects, focusing on dollars spent, that
achieve varying or ascending degrees of carbon neutrality.
Help people understand how their dollars can make a difference, rather than dazzling them with pictures of technology overload at a monstrous cost. After all, if $50,000
is 3 percent of the project cost, then the 3,800-square-foot
house cost $440 per square foot to build.
For $120 per square foot, we are building SolarHybrid
houses that are responsible for 0.84 metric tons carbon
equivalent (Mtce). [Compare that] to a Toyota Prius,
which emits 4.0 Mtce annually.
landmark renovation and building
I want to compliment your March issue article, “Back
to the Future.” After reading the article and studying the
excellent photos, I was struck by a couple of things. First,
the exemplary engineering detail on the mechanical elements of the home was striking. Also, the home really has
excellent architectural appeal, although, as a building environmental scientist, perhaps I’m not qualified to say so.
I have some cost-effectiveness concerns about using both
a geo-exchange system and a large photovoltaic system on
this home. Even the reference website, 429spruce.com,
and its referral to the Zero Carbon Initiative presentation
( zcinitiative.com) did not hold any significant technical
specs to consider.
So this lack of technical design data was the one key element missing from the story. Previously, when publishing
case studies, SOLAR TODAY provided very useful sidebar
information on expected performance, sometimes including design-tool simulations. A high-performance home like
this, especially one claiming to perform at LEED Platinum
and net-zero-carbon levels, screams for summary data supporting those claims. So I recommend SOLAR TODAY go
“back to the past” and resume documentation of technical features supporting exciting energy and environmental
claims being made.
Bion D. Howard
building Environmental Science and technology
aSES fellow and life member
valley center, calif.