Argument: McMansions can’t truly be green

I’ve blogged before about how some have argued green McMansions are possible. Here is a counterargument from Los Angeles:

After all, McMansions require huge amounts of energy to assemble their building materials and move them to job site.  Furthermore, the houses themselves are massive, which means enormous heating and air conditioning bills, even if their windows are double-paned, their walls padded with extra insulation, and their restaurant-sized refrigerators and stoves Energy Star rated.

Then we need to consider their multiple bathrooms and heated outdoor pools and spas, the most energy intensive features of modern houses.

Other McMansion features also have their detrimental environmental effects.  During demolition they release dust and asbestos into the air.  After construction, their large patios, pools, spas, and double driveways reduce natural open space.  Combined with their elimination of parkway trees and landscaping for driveway cuts, the cumulative result is a heat island with less penetration of rainwater.

Last, but certainly not least, we need to factor in their transportation system.  All McMansions are built on single-family residential lots located away from bus stops and transit stations.  This is why McMansion residents rely on their cars to get around; the only difference being that most of their vehicles are large, thirsty SUVs.

While I suspect while there are some who would never allow a large McMansion style house to be considered green, I look at this list of objections and think that they all could have solutions within the near future. The last one might be the hardest part; while there are McMansions located in denser neighborhoods, typically constructed in a teardown situation, the stereotype is that these homes are located on big lots in exurbs. Add this to the fact that suburban lots and houses are tied into the American Dream and it may be easier to retool a lot of energy consuming devices than push Americans to live in denser communities.

2 thoughts on “Argument: McMansions can’t truly be green

  1. Since I wrote this, let me reply. I have since talked to architects at USC, who identified additional McMansion features that are energy intensive, in particular the high and vaulted ceilings, as well as the flat roofs that are used to reduce costs and maximize mass. They both require additional heating and cooling. In combination with the requirement that all transportation to and from these extremely large homes is by car, usually large SUV’s, I think the only mitigation is smaller homes.

    In comparison, the amount of energy savings from more efficient HD tvs, microwaves, blue ray players, driers and washers, dish washers, pools, spas, and multiple bathrooms is minuscule.

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  2. Pingback: Solar panels are not just only for McMansions | Legally Sociable

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