Monday, February 17, 2014

There is no housing tech

This post is about housing technology. Basically there isn't any. There is technological and other improvements for housing but in the US basically none of them are put into widespread use. There are heat exchangers that keep warmth in houses while letting fresh air in I have heard they are getting more and more common in northern Europe. There floor heating system using electricity or hot water. Floor heating is one of the most efficient systems around and are standard in South Korea. Housing can have thick walls like strawbale houses, if you don't like these modular houses built in factories have excellent insulation. There are passive heating systems that face most of the windows south and have a long overhanging roof that shades the windows from the high summer sun and lets the low winter sun in. Leaf trees planted on the south side of a house shade the windows with there leaves in summer and their bare branches let the sun in while north side planted trees keep cold breezes off the house all year. Houses close to public transit reduce energy usage and people who live in them get more exercise walking to the train, have less obesity, and less diabetes. The measure of how good a neighborhood is is basically a measure of how much you can walk. Everything is better in walkable neighborhoods: healthier people, less crime, higher property values (because people want walkable but there aren't enough neighborhoods like this). We know how to make walkable neighbors. There are also solar panels, solar water heaters, rainwater purifiers and so on.

We know lots of ways to improve housing using technology or better planning. Now try finding a house that has any of these improvements - you can't, not at any price, not even in most new housing, most is built just like the older housing. You would have to build it yourself but anywhere near public transit or just near where you probably work doesn't have any open space. So the only way to get a house with any of these advancements is to buy a old house, knock it down and build a new one. This is very expensive, time consuming, and difficult for a individual who is not in the construction business. And you probably can't get a permit to do this anyway. What we are doing is restricting replacing existing housing and driving the price of the old inefficient housing up (because people have to live somewhere) to fund the current owners retirement when they finally sell it and move out into the countryside.

The only way we will get any advances in housing is to allow developers to knock down older housing and then encourage them to build something better in it's place in areas where people can get to work, using all we have already learned about building better housing and neighborhoods. The older stile of housing can still exist, it will just be further out from where jobs are if you really want it. Knowledge is useless if we don't act on it and make it available to more than just a sliver of people.

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