Architect Gil Peled Strives for a 'Carbon-Free House' in Stephen and Rebekah Hren's Book

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Carbon emissions from the building environment are globally one of the major contributors to climate change. On average up to 50% of all carbon emissions are related to domestic use of energy – our household consumption.

How then will our personal conduct have any influence on the global climate?

The answer to that is it all adds up. As is the case in the current global economic crisis, the “butterfly effect” also works on carbon emissions, hence accumulations of local reductions will have a positive global impact. So we are not alone in reducing our carbon-footprint as you will be able to read in this book: ‘The Carbon-Free Home’ by Stephen and Rebekah Hren.

The authors have gone through several phases in their attempt to live in a carbon-free home and have gained many valuable insights they share from their experience.

Many of the eleven chapters not only include the technical nitty gritty but also personal stories which make reading this book more enjoyable. Some insights are quite remarkable and the authors also bravely admit their mistakes. One was moving out of the city only to find that their daily commuting cancelled out any carbon reductions they may have made in their green country house. They realized that ultimately moving back to the city and retrofitting existing houses is the preferable solution.

The book includes a very good overview in the form of a table of projects, 36 in total, as well as a useful index. The table provides estimated costs for each measure and an indication to their effectiveness in saving energy and CO2 emissions as well as time and skills required.

Many proposals are quite practical providing diverse solutions such as various alternative energy sources, alternative cooking methods an so on. Each chapter has also useful and hand-on advice, various references as well as black and white illustrations.

Unfortunately some of the technical information provided is not in metric units; perhaps in a future edition this can be put right.

All in all the book is recommended both for professionals as well as ordinary house holders as it provides enjoyable reading combined with practical advice which can be implemented, at large or in phases, in most homes. Their widespread implementation contributing to a more energy efficient and carbon-free home for our own benefit as well as for the benefit of the global environment.

The Carbon-Free Home – Stephen and Rebekah Hren, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2008, 260 pages www.chelseagreen.com

This book is reviewed by Gil Peled, a Jerusalem-based green architect, whose practise is called ‘Eco Challenges’, and he is the co-ordinator of Jerusalem’s Eco-Housing Pilot Project, in the Rehavia neighbourhood. And he is a great friend of Green Prophet to boot.

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