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Can you say “sustainability?”


I knew you could.

From an article entitled “A House That Is as Green as it Gets:”

Eleven years ago, Sally Liu, a water-resources engineer, and her husband Bay Chang, then a senior research scientist for Google, bought a 0.84-acre lot for $2.675 million in suburban Hillsborough, Calif. Avid environmentalists in their mid-40s with two young sons, they set out to build something different from the neighborhood’s overblown mansions and closer to their hearts: a green energy home.

“I really did not want a large house next to a lawn,” said Ms. Liu, who is now 56 and advises for the Nature Conservancy.

The local rock group down the street is trying hard to learn their song.

Intended for intergenerational living — in itself a green idea — the 7,477-square-foot enclave (including basement) is not monolithic. It has three public and private zones linked by insulated glass-walled walkways shaded by steel trellises or roof overhangs. The sections are laid out in a U shape around a central limestone courtyard dotted with garden beds and block-like stone benches where the family and friends can gather.

I got my poor old gray-haired Daddy

Driving my limousine.

If you are a guest, you can climb from the car court at street level, through an entry garden of native grasses and up a flight of stairs to the formal front door. Turning right from the foyer takes you into Mr. Chang’s sanctum, where he keeps his prized board game collection. Turning left leads to a 65-foot long, open-plan sequence of living spaces on the north edge of the courtyard. This 1,000-square-foot area is lit with LED pendants and finished with nontoxic or low-VOC materials that have the downside, Ms. Liu noted, of degrading with powerful sunlight. (Though automated blinds have reduced the impact, the stained floors have faded to natural walnut.)

Isn’t it a pity?

The V-shaped roofs double as rain collectors and drain into a 5,000-gallon underground cistern that preserves runoff for nonpotable purposes like irrigation. A 500-gallon cistern under the pool deck likewise collects used household water for the gardens, which Mr. Lutsko populated with native live oaks and with species he jokingly calls “honorary natives,” like Mediterranean Jerusalem sage and olive trees.

It’s like the Shire, if hobbits had Google stock options.

Several years later, the combination of passive- and engineered-solar power seems to work as planned. At first, not fully trusting the energy systems they had invested in, Ms. Liu monitored everything closely. “I am an engineer who loves spreadsheets,” she said. “The goal was to be net-zero energy, and I was relieved the solar numbers met the goal.” That is partly because with many days in the 80s, the pool rarely requires heating.

Live simply, so others can simply live.

What are the odds that there’s a statuette of the Buddha somewhere in this net-zero retreat, reminding the random passersby that suffering is caused by desire? (In Boulder a local ordinance requires one if your house is more than 4000 square feet).

I realize that NYT Lifestyles Section real estate porn is the very softest of targets for the cheapest of snark, but come on.

All left-wing parties in the highly industrialized countries are at bottom a sham, because they make it their business to fight against something which they do not really wish to destroy. They have internationalist aims, and at the same time they struggle to keep up a standard of life with which those aims are incompatible. We all live by robbing Asiatic coolies, and those of us who are ‘enlightened’ all maintain that those coolies ought to be set free; but our standard of living, and hence our ‘enlightenment’, demands that the robbery shall continue.

George Orwell, “Rudyard Kipling” (1942)

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