A fair highlight: Energy-efficient homes

A crisis atmosphere has emerged regarding energy supplies and costs, the need to curb greenhouse gas emissions and the overall environmental decline documented in the United Nations millennium ecosystem report. Under a crisis atmosphere, short-term solutions can be seized upon, which only intensify long-term problems.

The current emphasis on increasing energy supplies is changing existing land use patterns and giving rise to conflicts over siting wind farms and biofuel production facilities. Considering the global reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear power, they are likely to remain in the mix, even as their role is intensely debated.

As advocates of renewable energy and efficiency, we are uncomfortable with the emerging political climate that places far greater emphasis on increasing energy supplies than on using energy far more efficiently than we now do. Efficiency experts point to many overlooked opportunities that could reduce our energy consumption dramatically.

Last year’s Illinois Renewable Energy & Sustainable Lifestyle Fair featured the German Passive House, which can cut energy consumption to 10 percent of what a conventional home uses. Victor Zaderej will provide data he has collected on the performance of his home this past winter. Marko Spiegel will exhibit his model, which illustrates the construction features of the One-Watt-HouseTM, and give a presentation about its features and its roots in the German Passive House movement.

Other examples of energy-efficient homes include Davis Caves’ earth sheltered homes, the Polo dome home that offers an unusually high level of protection from potential tornadoes and wind storms and D-Wall Construction’s healthy home using insulating foam forms, poured concrete and steel construction.

Jon Haeme, who built the first straw bale home in Illinois, will tell the story of living in one. Jon and his family live their lives in a manner consistent with the goals of a sustainable lifestyle.

Gregory Johnson, a co-founder of The Small House Society, will make a presentation about the how and why of his lifestyle. Living in a 140-square-foot home involves dramatic energy savings and provides him with plenty of time to assist environmental organizations in his community. In our youth, the 1,100-square-foot average home met the needs of a family of five. The average home today is more than 2,000 square feet. In Colorado, where homes as large as 60,000 square feet have been built, a community passed an ordinance limiting them to 15,000 square feet to avoid the enormous pressures on land availability, natural gas and water consumption and traffic congestion caused by weekend guests.

There will also be examples of what do-it-yourself home builders and remodelers have done to make homes energy efficient. Keith and Mary Blackmore, whose lifestyle includes many components of sustainable living, will explain how they live and why. Roland Wolff will describe how he remodeled an old farm house to make it very energy efficient. Brad Roos will explain the steps Zion Corporation has taken in making a Rockford assisted living facility energy efficient. Cozy Covers, a specialist in applying foam insulation to new and old buildings, will have a booth at the fair.

Several homes will be open for tours on Saturday or Sunday. Advanced registration is suggested since tour sizes are limited. The fee is $5 per person. Tour participants will need to provide their own transportation.

Energy efficiency in buildings is a major means to cut our energy consumption. Attend the Sixth Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair Aug. 11 and 12 at the Ogle County Fairgrounds in Oregon, Ill., for ideas for your own life.

Major sponsors include The Clean Energy Community Foundation, The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, ComEd and The Rock River Times.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. They have 3.2 kW of PV and a 1 kW wind generator at their home. Forty acres of their 180-acre home farm are in ecological restorations. They are also active in preserving natural areas. They are retired professors from Northern Illinois University..

from the July 18-24, 2007, issue

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