Eco-friendly House

Consider this: mom, dad, 2 kids, + 1 dog live in a house (in the United States). What would you figure to be the square footage that they need? Would that change if they were building an “eco-friendly” house or would just the materials change?

The Burlington Free Press ran an article over the weekend about a Waitsfield, VT family who built their dream home, which they labeled eco-friendly. The specifics include: 5 bedrooms, 3 1/2 baths, and about 3100 square feet of living space plus the garage and basement. The eco-friendly factors come in with the materials, generally all local : Vermont slate and marble, local timber, on site fieldstone used. And, of course, the mechanical systems are environmentally friendly: a geothermal heating system, solar panels in the yard to provide electricity, and a passive solar hot water collector, triple pane windows, energy star appliances, and LED bulbs.

Still, the house is 3,100 square feet. Isn’t that too big for a family of 4? But, is that a fair judgment? Should I separate green and size? Is there a fine line between reconciling large buildings and houses and making them green? I don’t want to imply that the Waitsfield family did a horrible thing, they should be commended for their efforts; but I think it brings up an important question of size and space and truly being eco-friendly. My scale for houses is a bit skewed because I grew up with 2 parents, 3 sisters, and multiple pets in a 990 square foot ranch house; we eventually finished part of the basement but that only increased the size to somewhere around 1400 sq ft. (That was awesome because I finally had my own room — which is what every teenage girl dreams about.) And now, as mentioned before, I live in a 350 sq ft. apartment with Vinny and our cats. Anyway…

Thank goodness people who are building homes, large and small,  are considering ways to go about reducing the environmental consequences and reliance on fossil fuels, but perhaps the article stands as a reminder that we still have a long way to until we’re successfully practicing what we preach? Perhaps this relates to LEED? What do you think – about all of this?

4 thoughts on “Eco-friendly House

  1. Missy says:

    Hi Kate!
    First let me say how thrilled I was today to discover that my work’s IT filter no longer blocks PiP!!

    Second, I think you bring up a very good point about whether a huge new ‘green’ building is really that green. Do you have pictures of the house you can share? It is hard to say it’s impact not knowing its footpring. Maybe it is 3.5 stories, in which case its footprint is probably less than 990 sq.ft. house you grew up in. Or maybe it is a ranch house which means that it is essentially 3100 sq.ft. of cleared land and impervious surface. I’ve long been a fan of the ‘not so big house’ movement started by Susanka. 775 sq.ft. per person seems to be a bit high. Even if the house has a carbon footprint of 0 and used sustainable and local materials, it still takes a lot more materials and resouces to build a 3,000 sq.ft. house than say a 2,000 one. I think that wasted materials and wasted space should be counted against the ‘greenness’ of a house.

    • Kaitlin says:

      I love it! Thanks Jen. I do not think I could live in such a small house, however. Is my apartment small enough now? We have too many books!

      There are definitely too many Big Stupid Houses in Vermont/Chittenden County. Williston makes me so sad. Of course I’ve seen these houses everywhere, but it just looks so out of scale when they spring out of nowhere in Vermont. Is New Hampshire like that too? Probably everywhere… I mean if it got to Vermont, who is left to resist? (I’m still not happy that Vermont caved for Walmart.)

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