Protect the environment by attacking cheap housing

Before I moved into my house, I lived in an apartment complex. I hadn’t live in an apartment for years, so I had forgotten how not family-friendly apartments can be. Our first night featured two people screaming profanities at each other at 2 in the morning, me calling the cops and then wishing the one guy would make good on the promise to kill the other so that it could finally be quiet. Yeah. Despite the nice exterior, the apartment was not full of nice people.

I soon discovered it had more defects. The doors leaked air. The filters hadn’t been replaced on the air conditioner. Lots of little things that I ended up fixing or working with maintenance to fix.

The worst was the water. I walked out one cold winter morning to see a sheet of ice on the street. The next morning, there was…another sheet of ice. And the next day, and next day. When it hadn’t rained in a few days, but there was still a sheet of ice, I found it odd. Then my water bill shot up. So I called management, which said it knew about a “foundation level water leak,” but wasn’t going to fix it because it was too expensive.

Yeah….we moved out shortly after, and a month later I happened to drive by again, just for kicks. There is still a massive puddle in the parking lot.

While I was staying at the apartment, I walked through a lot of homes being built by some large companies. Sadly, the workmanship on the homes was lacking. Worse, the builders go cheap on things like insulating air ducts and exterior walls. The homes, like my apartment, look nice on the outside, but they leak energy like a sieve.

I keep hearing news about the “Green New Deal” and it’s unrealistic methods for shifting to more renewable energy production. The green dealers have it all wrong though. The first thing to tackle is energy use, and a massive, low hanging fruit is shoddy home construction.

So, let’s do some math:

Assume 1/3rd of your electricity is used for heating/cooling.

If you just better insulated homes and saved a “measly” 10%, per house you’d save:

10,400*0.30*.1 = 312 kw hours, which for the entire US would be
312*126 million = 39.312 billion kw hours

To put that in perspective, that’s about as much electricity as the state of Nevada generated in 2017.

Insulating isn’t sexy, but it does work. Even better, you see the results instantly in your electricity bill, all without sacrificing much of anything. Just using LED lights and better appliances has caused residential consumption to begin tapering off.

Residential isn’t the only issue. Commercial buildings, especially small places like the apartment I used to live in, are notorious for poor construction practices. City governments tend to look the other way when there are problems. Yet the residents of those buildings are the most vulnerable. Compared to a home owner, who cares about his or her electric bill and can do something about it, a renter in an apartment is fighting a giant bureaucracy when she tries to fix an issue. Most won’t bother, or simply move on.

City governments should be looking out for poor construction practices and should push businesses to be fixing large issues. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that a constant water puddle in the street is probably a water leak. Of all the useful things a city government can do, enforcing proper building codes should rank near the top.

Just like balancing your check book, the first step to going green should be cutting our electrical usage. Technology is making that easier in terms of solid building practices, whether it is insulation, LED lights or better appliances. Lower electricity makes generation easier, and less generation gives renewable energy a chance to compete while lowering the impact to our wallets.

Sounds to me like something we can all get behind.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

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