Who are we hurting the most?
Perhaps the most significant sin of the easily-avoidable American energy crisis, which triggered economic collapse, is the simple fact of the heavy burden on low-income people who can least afford it. Drivers who must pay for their own fuel, minimum wage workers, those living below the poverty level, fixed income people, retired people, and especially people with disabilities may not be able to pay their mortgages, (or rent), ever-increasing utility bills, gasoline and food.
The current energy crisis is caused by excessive energy-wasting vehicles that get less than 30 mpg, when 40+ mpg conventional cars are readily available at discounted bargain prices today. The average American car gets about 17 mpg. The average European car gets over 25 mpg. If the American average rose to only 25 mpg, we would not need to import one drop of expensive Persian Gulf oil, and the price of gasoline would be much lower for everyone. 40 mpg cars were readily available years ago. Every time someone purchases a family vehicle that gets less than 25 mpg in the city, we move even farther away from energy independence for the life of the car.
Our American energy crisis is also caused by uncaring people who live in houses that are poorly designed, poorly constructed, and have an AVERAGE of nearly $2,000 a year in energy bills, when Zero Energy Homes with essentially NO energy bills were demonstrated three decades ago. These thoughtless people demand business-as-usual inefficient energy wasting houses, which force polluting power generation stations to be built at high prices across the country. If Americans would do simple things to reduce their home energy usage by 50% (or more), then the price of energy would be much lower for everyone. We would need fewer polluting power stations, less use of inefficient peaker plants, and have much cleaner air.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s utility bills for its roughly 5 million units of low-income, affordable housing total over $4 billion a year. Many of these units are small, uncomfortable, leaky, energy-inefficient project apartments. The energy used in most of these units could easily be reduced by at least 30 percent with only a few inexpensive repairs and enhancements.
Future Near-Zero Energy HUD Homes COULD cut utility bills by much more than retrofitting the 5 million existing energy inefficient HUD homes. These new ZED homes would be much more affordable for low income families and people with disabilities, when total monthly expenditures are considered. It should be legally mandated that all future subsidized housing projects exploit Near-Zero Energy Design features.
Subsidized planned communities projects should take advantage of significant economies of scale for heating, air conditioning, fresh water, hot water, sewage, laundry facilities, lighting, appliances, modern communications, natural landscaping, security monitoring, etc.
There should be high standards that only make such assistance available to law abiding legal residents, and quickly remove criminals from subsidized housing programs (which was a major failure of many previous projects from the Great Society to the hurricane disaster victims of 2004 / 2005).
Crime must no longer be tolerated in subsidized housing projects. Anyone who abuses our nation’s generosity does NOT deserve it. All types of criminals, drug dealers, and gangsters must no longer become role models for the children of low-income families in subsidized affordable housing projects.
We must assist low income children with healthy supervised recreational activities that get them exercising and interacting constructively, instead of leaving them in front of television sets to become obese introverted couch potatoes. The ZED lifestyle should be abundant, healthy, and in harmony with nature. In every climate, ZED can provide delightful entertaining, energy efficient recreation opportunities like indoor sports, well-lighted and monitored sports courts, swimming, etc. Pleasant study areas, daycare, and remedial tutor programs should be facilitated and coordinated by community volunteers who appreciate the housing subsidy they are receiving. This can help otherwise unemployable people live happier, somewhat productive lives. They need constructive role models to set things in motion and help it along the way from time to time.
The American energy crisis impacts poor people the most. We owe them our support until our energy crisis is resolved, BUT we must NEVER subsidize crime in any community at any time under any circumstance.
ZED projects should be mandated for relief of natural and man-made disaster victims (hurricanes, tornados, floods, terrorist attacks, etc.). Our government MUST stop subsidizing the manufacture of all forms of energy inefficient subsidized housing, with NO exceptions allowed ever again
Our Congress passed basic legislation to encourage energy efficiency, but the Non-Learning HUD executives continue to ignore the cost effectiveness of ZED (for over 25 years), for the low income people who immediately need assistance the most during the escalating American energy crisis. How very sad this situation has become, with little hope of near-term improvement - Simply outrageous misuse of billions of tax dollars! We need a grass roots campaign to correct the energy ignore-ance of HUD and local state and county low-income housing authorities. Minimizing initial cost and ignoring the near-term future consequences is among the dumbest this our Non-Learning Nation is continuing to do with our tax revenues today.
I am working with several organizations, as a part time volunteer, trying to design and develop a cost effective solution with minimal construction cost, and energy expense to operate such homes. The modules that are needed begin with only one bathroom, and 1 or 2 bedrooms – 624 sq.ft. for a 1-bedroom 1- bath, or a little bit more. We can use these modular construction techniques on larger homes, but the basic unit for individuals with disabilities do not require full sized 3-bedroom 2-bath homes (like those that Habitat for Humanity often builds). Our difficult-to-achieve goal is a challenging target of LESS THAN $60 PER SQUARE FOOT.
In lower-to-moderate cost-of-living locations, the price of new small-to-medium condominiums is currently over $120 per square foot, PLUS they typically have high monthly utility bills AND high monthly condominium dues for minimal amenities. The high density of these condos means that the cost of land per unit is minimized (but still high at today’s inflated prices). In many urban areas, prices for new inefficient condos are over $240 / sq.ft. with a strong upward trend in 2004-2005. ZED speculates that in 2007: (1) low interest rates will increase real estate demand, (2) energy price increases will make building materials cost more, and (3) higher minimum wage will have a general inflationary pattern on the economy.
Our ZED low-cost affordable home goal (for individuals with disabilities and other worthy low-income families) is roughly ONE HALF TO ONE FORTH of today’s market value of low-to-moderately-priced condominium housing. Meeting the $60 per square foot goal will become increasingly difficult to do in the future, as multiple inflationary pressures escalate the market value of materials and labor ever upward. However, if ZED can accomplish the goal of comfortable, beautiful, affordable, near-zero-energy housing that is roughly one half of the price of comparably-sized inefficient homes, we will be very pleased indeed to have made a valuable contribution to those who need and deserve cost-effective low-cost, affordable family or individual housing.
These smaller ZED housing modules (based on the ZED manufactured equipment cluster concept) can be standalone homes, placed next to each other in a zero-lot-line fashion, or stacked on top of each other, where a community elevator, or a terraced design would yield easy wheelchair access for people with disabilities. (We prefer the hillside terrace approach.)
These ZED low-income housing modules would meet the HUD requirements, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) specifications for people with disabilities, who may need wheelchair access (36” doors, low counter tops, easy-access appliances, roll in showers, grab bars, visual and audible alarms, etc.). They would far exceed today’s energy efficient building codes and be structurally superior to conventional construction in windstorms.
MODULAR HOUSING is an interesting, cost-effective, low-cost, rapid construction concept that has been creatively designed, and incrementally refined, far beyond the old-fashioned obsolete mobile homes and trailers (that are still being used unwisely by FEMA for modern disaster victims). One characteristic about mobile homes, and modular homes, is that they require transporting a lot of empty space (for living rooms, bedrooms, dining rooms, etc.) down the highway. They require expensive tractor trucks and permits (due to their width) to move on the highway under a variety of wide-and-long-load transportation restrictions.
One contribution that ZED would like to make adds a new twist to the modular housing, rapid assembly-line idea. ZED is working on a novel approach for building a CORE EQUIPMENT MODULE (for the kitchen, utility / laundry room and bathroom) that would NOT require expensive transportation of a lot of empty space down the highway, as mobile homes and modular housing do today.
We sincerely wish all of our readers an Abundant New Life In Harmony With Nature
Lifelong Learning In An Ever-Expanding Universe Of Endless Possibilities TM
We invite constructive suggestions and collaboration with our new friends
E-Mail To: ZEDmaster@ZeroEnergyDesign.com