The influence of cars and air conditioning on the pattern of American home building is well documented. These new technology made possible explosive growth in Sunbelt cities like Houston, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Miami, where the heat and humidity had been a major comfort issue and a deterrent to population influx. Automobiles also opened up possibilities of living in suburbs, outside of the aging and stinky city centers.
Similarly, air conditioning was first unit invented in 1902 by Willis Haviland Carrier, but was not broadly implemented in residential homes until the late 1950’s/ early 1960’s, once the “summer-peaking” gas fired central power plants were built. Again, a public/private partnership.
|Small Car Technology in the 50s|
So what technology do we want for our future, and how might our government entities support this change? On the energy front, photovoltaic power promises some significant future improvements in the percentage of solar power per the same size panel. Government support is needed to help utility companies establish net-metering agreements, and also to allow for purchase of KwH production in excess from consumption. This will support the development of more net-zero houses, a hedge against future cost of utilities.
The technology curve for high efficiency hot water and HVAC appliances is sufficiently developed to be truly market ready. The US can follow the lead set by Canada by establishing a target date for mandatory adoption of these 98% sealed combustion condensing units, providing not only an increase in energy efficiency but effectively eliminating the danger of back-drafting of noxious gasses into our homes.
From a broader perspective, can we support the return of public transport, community centers, front porches? Where electric companies once subsidized public transport, now the responsibility lies on our central government entities. Not only to provide financial support, but also land management which allocates transportation corridors and zoning which encourages high density housing and community based businesses around transportation hubs. These decisions start at the local council level.
I encourage us all to think about forming our future. I hope that history will mark these years as the beginning of the new era, the final shifting away from the post-war consumerism and an embracing of mankind. It is our choice, will we drive technology – or will it drive us?