Humble Abode or Glorified Creation?

This NY Times article, Exhausted by a House That Saves Energy: Was It Too Soon to Be Sustainable?, was floating around the FLAT this week featuring a retired couple who escaped to the woods of Vermont in order to build themselves this close to net-zero house. Instead of downsizing after retirement, this couple opted to build a 5,000 sq. foot house with the intention of it later accommodating their kids and grandkids so that the youngins could take care of them and continue the operations of the house. After reading the article I got to wondering, was it worth it to the couple to go through all this construction and labor just to maintain a house? They couldn’t leave for vacation unless a trained family member could tend to the house all day. It requires constant attention to ensure all mechanics are working and chores are being completed (ex. opening and shutting the 56 shades throughout the day). I bet you’re also wondering how much this fine beauty costs (including the garage, outbuildings, chicken coop, etc.)? A whooping $500,000-$600,000. That’s an investment for retirement.

Ok, so maybe I shouldn’t be as hard on them. They are trying to be a model for their community by demonstrating how various technologies and practices can lead to a  sustainable lifestyle. It’s just that I get a bit fussy when people say they’re living a more “sustainable” lifestyle, when in fact, they’re contributing more to the environmental footprint -in this case it’s the new construction, cutting of existing trees, and lack of small scale construction. But now I want to focus on some of the positive and really interesting things this couple included in their abode:

  • a compost-heated chicken coop in the winter
  • 71 photovoltaic panels
  • 8 solar thermal panels
  • insulation and tight walls
  • “fancy ceilings”
  • hydraulic elevator
  • swimming pool…(sorry, I couldn’t help the “…”)

IMG_7197 IMG_7199 IMG_7200 IMG_7201 IMG_7205

If you’ve been to the FLAT this year, you might have noticed some of the plans for our new abode. We don’t know where these plans came from or who took on this in-depth project, but we like it! Apparently so does Frenchie at UM Facilities Services. I don’t know about my fellow FLATmates, but I am perfectly happy with what we have now and am pleased to see all our hard work come to fruition around our small cozy house. I am proud to call this house with these fabulous people who live in it my home.


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