November 01, 2007
When Zero Really Isn’t I’ve just read the letter to the editor from Larry Spielvogel and Mike Lubliner’s response (“Approaching Zero Energy,” Sept/Oct ’07, p.3). The “Zero Energy” name really doesn’t work well. It communicates a false sense of clarity about a concept that’s very hard to pin down. So here’s a suggestion. How about comparing homes using Btu/ft2/year? And how about calling those Btu “imported energy” or “fossil energy”? This is not just heating and cooling energy we’re talking about, but total energy use, so building energy needs along with residents’ energy needs get counted. This approach avoids us trying to measure solar input, which seems to involve guesswork that using utility bills avoids. Solar energy doesn’t come with the environmental costs that fossil energy comes with. If one wants to cover his or her roof with photovoltaics to lower the Btu/ft2/year number, fine. It just raises the dollars per square foot number to build the home. There are other things to discuss, but ...
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