Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Post # 10: A Home For Life: Dynamic Energy-Sensitive Housing

My wife and I are at the stage in life where we are looking to "right-size", "down-size", and "optimize" our home.  Our kids are grown and out of the house.  Home functionalities that were important at one point in our life are no longer so important.  Functions we've never really considered important are now becoming important (like living on one floor).  We need to move.

Americans have an almost sacred attraction to the concept of "owning our own home".  Our federal policies promote it, our tax laws enable it, and we are taught from birth that home ownership is a major element of the "American Dream".  Our home also becomes a major element of our personal financial worth as we move through life.

But, in a mobile society, home ownership can also impede the periodic relocations that are becoming the norm in today's world.  Further, in a world of limited energy resources, living in a home that is larger than we need is a wasteful.

Our housing needs (size and type of space) change as we move through life.  A single person becomes a couple.  A couple becomes a family.  A family becomes a couple, and often, a couple becomes a widow or widower.  The mobility of youth is traded for the fragility of old age.

This got me to thinking...

What if we pursued a very different approach to home ownership?  Imagine a model in which you purchase the land upon which you will live, but then had the option to add, in a modular fashion, the space you need as you need it, and reduce the space you no longer need as your needs diminish.

How might we accomplish this?

Imagine inter-connecting standardized panels for floors, walls, ceilings, and roofs.  When you need more space (extra bedrooms, bathrooms, etc), you run down to the local Home Depot and purchase more panels or modules.  When you no longer need that second story, that extra bedroom or bath, or that extra garage space, you conveniently disassembly the unneeded modules, truck them back to the local "housing" co-op, and sell them  Voila!  Less space to clean, less space the heat and cool, and a less real estate tax to pay!

How would such a model impact our society and our culture?  Our lifetime energy consumption?  Personal wealth strategies?  Worker mobility?  Community stability?  Governmental fiscal policies,  our banking system, etc.?

My guess is the impacts would be profound in ways we can predict, and in some we cannot.



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