A very old house in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood is getting an extreme green makeover.
"We bought a house that was standing here that was originally built by a gunsmith in 1850 called Henry Pratt," says Simon Hare with his 1-year-old baby strapped to his chest. "So the project's called the Pratt House."
Hare says the basic idea is to resurrect the home and not lose a historical piece of the neighborhood.
No Heating Needed
"Another [idea] is to make a house that heats itself, basically," he says. "The house is designed so that it doesn't need any auxiliary heating source during the wintertime."
The plan is that the house won't need a furnace in Boston in the winter.
The house uses super-insulating materials. The exterior walls are being rebuilt out of 1-foot thick structural insulation panels. It has a heat-exchanger in the ventilation system, which uses the exhaust air to warm or cool the air coming in.
The walls are made of cement-based plaster. That means they're made mostly of sand, which is pure quartz. Simon says that improves the "thermal mass." Making the walls and floor out of cement or stone soaks up heat and helps the house stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
Energy Efficiency In The Developing World
Leon Glicksman is a professor of building technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He does research into the building materials of the future. Some are very high tech. For example — he's looking into using nano-technology to develop insulation that's many times thinner than standard insulation is today. Then there are some lower-tech innovations for the developing world. He exhibits a straw panel, which looks like a giant graham cracker.
"It isn't high-tech," Glicksman says. "If you're in the mountainous region of Pakistan, you could take this straw and burn it to keep warm or make it into a panel and use it to insulate your home."
He says one of his graduate students is from Pakistan and she is working on creating a local industry there that will build and install inexpensive insulation made of readily available straw.
Glicksman says saving energy in developing countries is important.
"Every year in China they build 10 million new housing units," he says. "So, if they screw those up and they do poorly on the energy efficiency there, no matter what we do here, we're not going to be able to solve the global warming problem."