Friday, May 29, 2009

What's wrong with this picture? EVERYTHING!

Is it or isn't it—only your United States Green Building Council knows for sure...

Here is a house that has received not merely a single green certification but a "TRIPLE GREEN" certification through the U.S. Green Building Council, the Florida Green Building Coalition and Energy Star for Homes...AND commendation for "adhering to rigorous green applications."

The USGBC’s LEED-H (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Homes) program is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green homes.

Sounds great doesn't it? But, here is a prime example of "green" certification gone wrong.

Obviously "green" has come to mean something completely different to these agencies than what many of us thought it meant. Just click HERE and check out this web site—you will soon see what I mean.

I hope that at least some of you will begin to reconsider the value of these certifications, once you realize that this particular "triple green" certified house has...

over 15,000 square feet of living space—yes, you read's not a typo...That's FIFTEEN THOUSAND square feet.

7 bedrooms and 11 bathrooms.

an outdoor swimming pool with "a first ever glass 'water floor' with hand-painted tiles in a Monet-inspired Lotus garden motif brilliantly illuminated below the shimmering surface."

an "arched aquarium wet bar (walk below with exotic fish swimming above) and 24-foot oceanfront sheeting water walls."

a "9-foot hand-blown glass chandelier (672 individual pieces) that 'melts' into a reflecting pool below and a 10-foot kitchen and dining water wall."

a "double helix glass staircase, magnificent oceanfront Hawaiian Koa-wood kitchen and catering kitchen, and exotic tropical hardwood floors (coconut, bamboo, palmwood, reclaimed teak, etc.)"

an "oceanfront master bedroom suite with his/hers oceanview baths – hers with mahogany soaking tub and his with steam shower."

an "oceanfront glass office, glass wine room, oceanfront grand salon that opens to the beach, and a dining room that opens to the pool."

a "Hollywood-like movie theater."

an "air-conditioned and oversize garage with windows peering into the pool."

2 glass elevators.

2 laundry rooms.

and last but not least: "ultra hi-tech home automation with biofeedback, cocktails bale [???], oceanfront summer kitchen, meandering and swimmable water gardens, classical lounge and lap pool, serene reflecting pools, waterfall 16-person spa w/ fire feature, floating sun terrace, special golf course grass driveway, mature specimen vegetation, 2-bedroom 2-bath guesthouse adorned in bamboo with private lagoon plunge pool, and so much more…"

It's an exhausting list of excess and opulence.

How many dollars does this "mansionstrocity" save with its solar voltaic and water catchment systems? Many, according to its website. This manse, as they suavely call it, could save as much as 50% in the consumption of electricity. (Compared to what? They don't say.)

But how many dollars does it cost? How much energy was expended building this thing? Try TWENTY-NINE-MILLION-DOLLARS worth. Yes, that's 29 plus 6 zeros. Someone is going to pay upwards of $29,000,000 dollars for the luxury of living this green.

Does no one understand that the money used to purchase something like this comes from somewhere—and that somewhere used up 29 million dollars worth of energy producing it? That's what this house represents—29 million dollars worth of expended energy and resources. Is that being "green?"

And anyway, isn't the phrase "green mansion" an oxymoron?

Isn't reduce one of the "Three R's" of the green industry? (As in, REDUCE - REUSE - RECYCLE.)

Doesn't part of being green mean using fewer resources, learning to get by on a little less, and maybe even making the move toward living in something say...smaller?

Yes, green means installing water-saver shower heads which this mansion no doubt has—but can you still call it green if you put in ELEVEN of them?

Is it green when we put in water catchment systems while at the same time installing heated swimming pools, lap pools, huge hot tubs, plunge pools, reflecting pools, and multiple other water features that lose tens of thousands of gallons of water through evaporation, use large amounts of chemicals to sanitize, and burn through huge amounts of electricity while running those large circulating pumps?

These features waste vast amounts of energy. (HERE is an enlightening article about the not-so-green nature of swimming pools.)

So don't start telling me how the solar voltaic system produces enough energy to run everything and don't try to tell me that the water catchment systems produce more than enough water to offset evaporation. I don't want to hear it—unless you first tell me how much these systems cost (including any tax incentives). Then we'll see if those figures can compete with the savings that would be gained in the elimination of those very same systems feeding those excessive features. I don't think so.

Is this house greener than other homes of this scale? Of course it is...much greener. Is that a good thing? Absolutely.

Can you call the building of a super-mansion such as this—with its many energy-saving and "sustainable" features—the lesser of two evils? Of course, and the builder is to be commended.

Look, I have no quarrel with anyone wanting to live in a house such as this. If you have the money and want to spend it thus, go ahead. You have that right. Build anything you wish—but please don't call it "green." Call it efficient for its size and scope, go ahead and call it greener, but please don't call it green. And certainly don't certify it as such.

Certifying something like this as being green is a slap in the face to those who truly care about the earth and it's environment. Excesses such as these may leave you green with envy but they are NOT green. They are wasteful by their size and nature and defeat the entire purpose and intent of the green movement.

Certifying agencies, isn't it time to rethink your requirements for certification..just a little?

Next post: Take the Curmudgeon's color test—are you green, greenish brown, or brown? Be honest now...are you really eco-conscious or are you just deluding yourself?


mamiel said...

I have no problem with it if they live in the northeast where there is lots of water. If they live in the west they are being un-green water-piggies.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I, for one, DO have a quarrel with someone wanting to build a house like this. One of the great lies of the modern economy is that an individual has the right to do anything they want with the money they lord over. $29 million would house, feed, and clothe some entire nations, but instead some wise person thought it would be better to build a castle? That's their right? What about the more than 6 billion other people who don't have 29 million dollars? What about their rights?

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