Tuesday, April 13, 2010
A couple of commenters argued that I was being too negative in yesterday's "It Can't Possibly Be That Easy" post in assuming that existing housing stock would have to be replaced, and that it was possible to retrofit existing homes to be zero net emissions. I think they have a point, but at the same time, I don't think it changes my larger point that getting to zero emissions cannot be without impact on growth.
A nice case study is a house in Boulder, Colorado, which is detailed in articles in the Daily Camera and Ecofutures. The couple in question carried out a $125,000 retrofit (of which $60,000 was their own money), adding solar hot water collectors feeding radiant floor heating in a new basement slab, a 6KW PV panel array, an extra layer of wall outside the existing wall, more insulation in the roof and foundation, energy auditing to remove air leaks and thin spots in the insulation, new windows, etc.
So this is definitely cheaper than throwing away the existing house and starting over. But it's still a massive project (it took them two years) and requires a lot of economic resources.
I stress that I'm not saying we shouldn't do this - we should! I want to do this for my own family at some point. But to the extent we are putting our resources into fixing up the housing (and other infrastructure) we have like this, we are not putting those resources into building more/bigger/better houses, etc. I think we should acknowledge that fact.
Also, Krugman has a response to his critics here. I found it sketchy and unpersuasive.