Want Better Communities? Get rid of Homeowners

The North American dream often hinges on owning the shelter you reside in, but with raising home prices this is a challenge for many. It may work out in the long run though as we should be creating systems that favour renters over owners since homeowners tend to hold back progress. Of course, we will need to protect renters from evictions and so on. Regardless, over at Vox they have an interesting analysis on home ownership which is worth considering:

Researcher Rachel Bogardus Drew points to more than a century’s worth of messages praising the benefits of homeownership, “everything from personal freedom and self-determination, social equality and inclusion, personal and economic success, and a better quality of life.”

One of the messages Drew cites is from a 1916 article in the Hutchinson News telling readers: “Owning a home raises one in the estimation of his neighbors and associates. … Nothing gives a man a better standing in a community than the fact that he is a house-holder, a payer of taxes on real estate.”

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Download This Home

the suburbs

The standard North American home (pictured above) is horrible inefficient and quite bad for the environment. As the climate crisis conies to worsen we need to change the way we provide shelter for people: and that’s exactly what Phoenix, Arizona did. Arizona is experience such extreme heat that everyday objects are melting and car tires explode, sometimes the airport can’t function either. This led the City of Phoenix to launch a competition for making the most affordable and environmentally friendly home.

The winning home building plan is available for free online from the city, meaning you can download a home.

The winner of the contest, Marlene Imirzian & Associates Architects, went even lower. The studio’s affordable, three-bedroom home, dubbed HOME nz, has an impressive HERS rating of zero. A $100,000 prize went to Imirzian’s firm, and the design is now available for widespread use; the City of Phoenix has made the construction plans for HOME nz available for free to encourage the public to build more eco-friendly homes. “The city of Phoenix has a very visionary sustainability director and department who are looking for leadership for built work in the Phoenix area,” says Imirzian. “[The] goal was to show how simple moves could result in significant [environmental] changes.”

Since Phoenix’s dry, sun-bleached environment involves extreme heat, the design incorporates high-performance glass, which reduces heat transmission from outside, and retractable fabric screens for greater shade and passive cooling without the help of an AC unit. But HOME nz is a useful and applicable model no matter the climate. “If the volume performs well in terms of the separation of the interior and exterior then no matter where you build your house, it will be managed optimally by what you’re surrounding the house with,” notes Imirzian. “It would do just as well in a very cold climate or [a place] where you need conditioning or heating.”

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Living Off the Grid in a Major City

Most people think living off the grid means living the countryside with your own well, reenable energy, and food source. The truth is that style of off the grid requires massive space to work (for example, a well needs a large area to collect water from), so that rural off the grid doesn’t work for everyone.

What is a person living in the city to do to get off the grid though?

Back in the 90s there was a competition throughout Canada to figure that out. One winner is still living in his house that is off the grid in Toronto.

“We promised to make the house self-sufficient and not use any non-renewable fuel,” Paloheimo said.

“Despite the home’s high-tech appearance, most of the products and systems are simple and straightforward,” said Chris Ives, CMHC project manager, said in a Toronto Healthy House report published after the house was built.

“Off-grid houses do not necessarily require hours of labour for upkeep. In fact, everything in the house is easy to maintain and available in today’s marketplace.”

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How to use Geothermal Energy in your Home

What is Geothermal? from Austin Wendenburg on Vimeo.

Geothermal energy is one of the most sustainable energy sources because it works off of heat transferring from the ground to your home. In Iceland, the majority of the electricity comes from geothermal energy because the country sits in a prime location. You can make use of geothermal energy at your home in a much smaller way.

Scotiabank Looks to Reward Eco Companies

Banks have a horrible reputation because of their inability to predict economic behaviour, this was highlighted by the ongoing economic claptrap that started roughly seven years ago. Canadian banks have also received a tarnished reputation because of their ongoing unethical investments in the Alberta tar sands. Perhaps as a reaction to this, Scotiabank launched an awards program in 2010.

Their EcoLiving Awards is focused on bringing attention and finances to companies that are improving the efficiency of households. This can range from better windows to new technology systems. You can nominate a company at their website, so if you know a Canadian company that makes the world a little more sustainable on the home front you should nominate them.

“The Scotiabank EcoLiving Awards showcase outstanding leaders in home energy efficiency. If you have a great idea or solution, we want to hear from you,” said Kaz Flinn, Scotiabank’s Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility. “We know that Canadian homeowners are likely to consider making their home more energy efficient or environmentally friendly with renovations. These awards bring forward new and innovative ideas.”

The Scotiabank EcoLiving Awards recognize winners in three categories:

  1. Business Leadership ($50,000) – a business or individual who is leading the way in home energy efficiency products, services or solutions. Focused primarily on executing a proven idea or program.
  2. Innovators ($15,000) – a business or individual demonstrating innovation in home energy efficient products, services and solutions. Focused on introducing exciting new ideas for products or programs.
  3. Student Leadership ($10,000) – a full-time college or university student who demonstrates promise for the future of home energy conservation.

Find out more at their website.

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