NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 23, 2006

Environmentally conscious "green" houses are becoming a staple of architects and home design magazines, where they are presented as exemplars of good taste and intentions. Yet, according to the Wall Street Journal, the important question is: How green can huge, isolated houses be?


  • The average home built last year was roughly 2,400 square feet -- that number has been increasing even though the average household size has been shrinking.
  • In most places, these new homes are erected in accordance with building codes that have grown vastly more environmentally conscious in the past 30 years.
  • Homeowners who want to do even better can spend a little more for thicker walls, high-efficiency appliances, stingy heating and cooling and advanced windows with energy-saving coatings and argon gas between the panes.
  • Computerized thermostats, compact fluorescent bulbs and fuel-efficient cars also make sense, whether your goal is to save money, save the planet or reduce our dependence on imported oil.

Similarly, in building a house you could decide to spend a lot of time and money on environmental busywork, or you could just go to Home Depot, which offers low prices, claims to know the provenance of every piece of wood on its shelves and is America's biggest seller of lumber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, says the Journal.

Unfortunately, by pouring so much money into ostentatious eco-design, the people who build these homes have purchased status at the cost of doing some real environmental good, says the Journal.

Source: Daniel Akst, "Green House Gasbags," Wall Street Journal, January 13, 2006.

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