I happened to live in France back in 2002, and during my year there I noticed a pretty significant gap between sustainability as practiced in Europe in the US. In Europe, I was working with large public companies who were already integrating the implications of global warming and sustainbility into their businesses. In the US (and sadly still today), many companies were still arguing whether global warming even existed!
This difference was also evident in houshold products – from luxury hotels in Italy fully outfitted with CFLs to low-flow water fixtures and dual-flush toilets in many homes to small upright washers in even the most basic apartments, the kinds of products associated with our burgeoning US green movement today were already the norm in many parts of Europe back then.
On a recent trip overseas I happened to pick up a French architecture magazine for the flight home. I was pleasantly surprised to see that we had really caught up in the past six years – outside of being written in French, you would have been hard-pressed to distinguish this magazine from any of the leading US architecture magazines.
One article caught my eye, though, for it did point out a slight difference that needs to move across the pond. It was on a beautiful and practical prefab home, called the EvolutiV house by Olgga Architectes of Paris. The house itself is striking, made from two rectangular prefrabicated sections that can be rearranged to develop different floorplans and having exterior walls made from sections of wooden logs. The homes also come with the latest and greatest in eco-design: natural ventilation, rainwater collection, solar panels (both PV and thermal), green roof, radiant heating with an option for geothermal heating/cooling, and the typical eco-friendly materials throughout.
The most interesting piece of the story, though, is that the literature for the house and the articles written about it all refer to the home’s target energy usage: less than 48 kWh / m2 / year, which translates to about 4.4 kWh / ft2 / year. This is 70% less energy usage than the typical US home in similar climates.
It’s not the level of performance that makes this interesting, for many prefab options in the US can do as well. It’s that the media in France AND the architecture firm who designed the house feel compelled to advertise efficiency in terms of a single number that is easy to understand and can be used to compare this home to others one might choose. I’ve rarely if ever seen that in discussion of US prefab options (or other green homes) – outside of a LEED rating, we’re often left to guess exactly how eco-friendly that home is. We’d love to see this become more widespread in the US – information is power, and simple, objective numbers like this can help us separate the truly eco-friendly from innovative designs that are green in name (or advertising) only.
To see more photos of the Evolutiv house, click here to view the balance of this posting. (FYI, the EvolutiV house is about 800 square feet and is available in France for about $150,000.)
And click here to find great green prefab homes available in the US.