The house that could save the world

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The house that could save the world

REACH wants to capitalize on “the Prius effect,” to get the occupants so invested in the results that, in the words of Graham Irwin, they’ll “try to dial in” and use as little energy as possible. To accomplish that, management mounted the five-foot screen on a wall in the lobby, encouraging tenants to pay attention to every kilowatt consumed in the 57 units. “It’s not foisted on them,” emphasizes Ben Sturtz, REACH’s housing development project manager. “But it shows each unit and cycles through it. It almost treats their energy usage as a budget. We’ve worked to educate the tenants on using windows, opening them at night and closing and using shades during the day.”

Complaints about privacy invasion were countered with a reward system, offering prizes to the thriftiest energy consumer each month. At first, it was suggested that the winner be offered a prime spot in the building’s parking lot. But when it turned out that many of the tenants didn’t own cars, management decided it had to find a better incentive. They’re still looking.

Rob Hawthorne says that he can’t build passive homes fast enough in Portland these days. He built his first passive house on spec during the economic recession of 2008. Work had slowed to a crawl at GBD Architects, his employer. Layoffs were the rule of thumb. […]