Posts Tagged ‘footprint’

A Low Impact Woodland Home

A hobbit's houseSimon Dale and his father in-law decided to build their home as inexpensively as possible. So they used natural material and what they could find to build home for Simon’s family of 4. According to Simon:

This building is one part of a low-impact or permaculture approach to life. This sort of life is about living in harmony with both the natural world and ourselves, doing things simply and using appropriate levels of technology. These sort of low cost, natural buildings have a place not only in their own sustainability, but also in their potential to provide affordable housing which allows people access to land and the opportunity to lead more simple, sustainable lives.

I’ve always been a fan of underground homes, and this is the perfect example of how locally sourced materials and ingenuity can make an affordable and livable home. Sadly, in the States, it would almost be impossible to get the necessary building permits and variances to build such a home. It would not meet code standards set in stone here in the Puget Sound. Still, it’s a great idea.


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Ever wonder how really affordable your house or apartment is? So have I and the Housing and Transit Affordability Index will show you the numbers. Based solely on rent cost, my apartment is fairly affordable, at 17% of my income. However, if you add in transportation costs, it more than doubles, to 40% of my income.

H+T Affordability Index: Seattle–Bellevue–Everett, WA: Comparing Housing Costs, % Income for Renters to Housing + Transportation Costs, % Income for Renters

The Housing + Transportation Affordability Index is an innovative tool that measures the true affordability of housing based on its location.
© Copyright 2003-10 Center for Neighborhood Technology
2125 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 · Tel: (773) 278-4800 · Fax: (773) 278-3840

If I compare the annual cost of driving to work versus the annual cost of transit, I find that I’m saving a ton by working from home and taking the bus whenever I can. The difference is amazing: $51 for transit a year, versus $2,048 for a car per year. The cost of transit is spread out across all riders, while the cost of operating your car is solely in your hands and your pocketbook. It costs more to own a car than to take the bus.

H+T Affordability Index: Seattle–Bellevue–Everett, WA: Comparing Annual VMT Cost ($) to Annual Transit Cost ($)

The Housing + Transportation Affordability Index is an innovative tool that measures the true affordability of housing based on its location.
© Copyright 2003-10 Center for Neighborhood Technology
2125 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 · Tel: (773) 278-4800 · Fax: (773) 278-3840

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Did you know that pancakes don’t come from a mix that you buy in the store? Amazing isn’t it?

Pancakes made from scratch.

Pancakes made from scratch.

Sarcasm aside, making pancakes from scratch is easy and simple to do. This morning I made myself a batch of pancakes using a simple recipe. Not only is it better for you, you control what goes into to your pancakes and into your family. So here’s the recipe:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup low fat milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. sugar (optional)
  1. Grease your griddle with a non-stick spray or vegetable oil.
  2. Preheat your griddle over medium-high heat.
  3. Beat the egg, milk, and vanilla together.
  4. Sift the flour and baking powder into a separate bowl, then add the salt and sugar.
  5. Whisk the egg and milk mixture into the flour until somewhat smooth, just slightly lumpy. Don’t over mix.
  6. Pour 1/4 cup dollops of batter on to the griddle keeping them about 2″ apart. Cook until the tops of the pancakes are bubbled.
  7. Turn each pancake over and cook until the bottom is browned.

Makes about 10 4″ pancakes. Unused batter may be stored in the refrigerator. If the batter gets too thick, thin with a little cold water.

If you want to add farm fresh blue berries or strawberries or other fruit, sprinkle them on top the pancakes after you pour them on the griddle. Don’t mix them in the batter.

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In my previous article on this topic, Solar Power Northwest: Remodeling your home, I looked at the numbers behind solar power in the Northwest prompted by two articles in James Lupori’s Kenmore Undressed blog. Now we’re going to take a look at an actual home in the Brier neighborhood, via James’ latest article: Solar Energy – The Perfect Remodeling Project of the Future, Part 3.

Eric’s setup uses 18 panels that provide most of his daytime power needs. The article doesn’t mention if Eric uses Energy Star appliances, which would benefit him by letting him sell power back to the utilities reducing his total utility bill. That’s the smart way to go.

[Edit: In response to the question about how much this installation cost Eric, I don’t have hard numbers, but I estimate it was between $28,000 and $30,000.]

The next step in energy conservation would be Smart Grid aware appliances, heating systems and water heaters.

The Smart Grid, in a nutshell, turns power transmission and production from a centralized system to a distributed system that is self-aware and responds to the demands for power from homes and businesses. This is supported by Smart Grid-aware appliances and heating and cooling systems in your home. As demand spikes, your fridge goes to a longer cooling cycle to reduce it’s load on the grid, your water heater doesn’t reheat the water immediately , etcetera. Ideally, your home will be wired to manage its energy usage. Instead of a water heater, you’d have an on-demand tankless water heater so there’s no need to heat or even store 30+ gallons of water.

However, creating the Smart Grid will take time. Puget Sound Energy is looking into implementing Smart Grid Technology, but like most nascent technologies, there are multiple standards coalescing into a single one. Just another step towards our energy independence!

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Realtor James Lupori of the Kenmore Undressed blog has written two articles about the viability of solar power in the Northwest. He looks at the topic from the point of view of a remodeling project.

Based on his numbers, it will cost him approximately $1,600 to install one 13 square foot solar panel that will produce 205kw of power while the sun shines. This cost includes the actual installation of the panels. And that’s on the cheap end of installation. Normally the cost of installation ranges between $7/watt to $9/watt, so James is getting a good deal on installation.

Is it worth it? Well, yes.

Currently, solar power installations will payback their investment in about 20 years. The downside is that the average lifespan of current solar panels is only 25 years. Hopefully, when it comes time to replace them, the cost will have dropped significantly.

And as more and more units are installed, costs will drop. As newer solar cell technology is developed, the amount of power produced by solar panels will go up. Our current solar cell technology is only 17% to 20% efficient for most commercial solar panels. The highest efficiencies are around 40%, but at a much higher cost per panel.

So, how many square feet solar panels do you need to power your home? Take out your energy bills for the last twelve months and add together kWh on them for your yearly total. Then, divide your yearly kWh usage by 1.5. The resulting number will tell you how many square feet of solar panels you would need to power your home.

The obvious problem with solar power is that you only get power while the sun shines. So, if you really want to get off the grid, you’ll need to go multi-modal with your power generation. I’m a firm believer in multi-modal transportation and that applies to power generation as well.

In the Northwest we have a lot of wind, so wind turbines are a possibility. However, I strongly suggest that you seek out expert advice before going out a buying one. Some neighborhoods may ban them for the noise that they make. Also, you may not have enough wind in your area to for a turbine to work at all. But, if you’re lucky to live in a place where the wind blows consistently, it’s a worthwhile investment.

The Kenmore Undressed articles:

SOLAR ENERGY – The Perfect Remodeling Project of the Future, Part 1

SOLAR ENERGY – The Perfect Remodeling Project of the Future, Part 2

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In the online Atlantic Magazine’s The Daily Dish article Taking Up Space, writer Richard Florida posted the following photographs which illustrate the amount of space taken up by different kinds of transit – bicycle, bus and car:

Image via SUNY Stonybrook Department of Geosciences (h/t: Ian Swain, Martin Prosperity Institute).

 According to the article each transportation footprint is:

  • Bicycle – 90 sq. m for 71 people to park their bikes.
  • Car – 1000 sq. m for 72 people to park their care (avg. occupancy of 1.2 people per car).
  • Bus – 30 sq m for the bus.

Some food for thought…

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Lake Forest Park’s Sixth Annual 2009 Earth Smart Fair:

Environmentally Safe & Economically Wise Living

Saturday, April 11
10:00 AM- 2:00 PM
Third Place Commons, Lake Forest Park Towne Centre
17171 Bothell Way NE

Want to live “green” and save money? The theme of this year’s Earth Smart Fair is living sustainably through environmental and economically wise choices. Learn how to plant a vegetable garden that will nourish your family. Enjoy your harvest through the winter by preserving fruits and vegetables. Receive tips on saving water, electricity, reducing garbage, and living chemically free- all of which save the earth, your family’s health, and your wallet. Attend great workshops and enjoy exhibits. Pick up a free aluminum water bottle, and other useful gifts while supply lasts.


Growing a Home Vegetable Garden – Successful methods for different spaces
– Martha Clatterbaugh, presenter.

Learn the basics about vegetable growing including when, what, where, and how to plant. You can plant vegetables even if you are an apartment dweller or have a shady lot. Martha Clatterbaugh has been growing vegetables in the Puget Sound region for thirty years and has served as a Master Gardener in Snohomish County through WSU Extension since 1998. This workshop will be presented twice in the Commons Meeting Room. 10:30 AM-12:00 Noon and 12:30 – 2:00 PM

Introduction to Canning
– Jessica Dally, presenter.

Learn to preserve the bounty of your garden and extend the taste of summer into the cold winter months 
This class will discuss and demonstrate proper methods to can many types of fruits and vegetables using both the water bath method and pressure canning. Jessica Dally is a Master Canner/Food Preserver and has been canning for over 5 years. This workshop will be presented twice in the Commons Demonstration Room. 10:30 AM- 12:00 Noon

Gardening for Wildlife
– Constance Perenyi, presenter

Create a vital home for wildlife in your own backyard. Learn about plant selection, siting nest boxes and birdbaths, and humane ways to prevent problems with both wild and domestic animals. Constance Perenyi is author of two habitat books for young readers, many articles for adults and has experience in wildlife rehabilitation and environmental education. Commons Demonstration Room 12:30-2:00 PM

This fair is sponsored by the City of Lake Forest Park, Friends of Third Place Commons, with funds from the King County Local Hazardous Waste Program, and King County Solid Waste.

Contact: Tema Nesoff, City of Lake Forest Park
206 368-5440

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