The Oregonian newspaper recently ran an article titled Trading Up, Staying Home, about an empty-nester couple who remodeled their 4500 square foot, six bedroom daylight ranch, rather than moving, when their five kids had all gone to college.
We think 4500 square feet is a big house, but we've learned by now that not everyone else thinks so: so when a newspaper article lauds a couple for staying put and remodeling rather than moving into a brand new house, but we'd like to think the net effect is positive... Aside from bringing the house in line with the current taste of the owners, the remodel created the potential for greater density in the long-term. The owners reorganized the floor plan to put all the core areas on the main floor: kitchen, bathroom, laundry, all with no steps to trip over or fall down. The lower level is separate, which means that in the future, it could be given over to caretaker (or renter!) instead of the overnight guests for whom it was designed. So why is this green, even at 4500 square feet? Every new home builtâ€”green or otherwiseâ€”has two costs: 1) the one-time hit on resources that go into building the structure and surfaces, like the trees that are cut down to make studs, and the petroleum that is refined to make Corian and vinyl; and 2) the ongoing costs of energy use. While we have a tendency to focus on the first part of this equation, perhaps because we can see the effects of cutting down trees and other resource extractions, most scientists agree that the real cost to the environment is energy use in the long term.
What we're trying to get at here is, we suppose, a reality check. Unless we end up with a draconian government, some Americans are going to live in homes that are large.
Simply put: the fewer big homes that get built, the better for the environment in the long run.