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Nov 7, 2012

Google Hangout: Building Permanently Affordable Homes (Video)


SHI Logo
Low-income Americans are often faced with a tough choice: buy groceries for the family, or pay disproportionally high utility bills. In the wake of a nationwide housing and financial crisis, the situation of low-income households in the U.S. has become precarious. Yet superefficiency can help reduce cost burdens on these households and on the agencies and organizations that provide housing to them.

Currently residential buildings in the U.S. use 38 percent of total electricity and account for one-fifth of the nation's carbon dioxide emissions. Astonishingly, public housing uses nearly 40 percent more energy per square foot than private housing. In 2008 alone, Public Housing Authorities spent almost $1.6 billion in direct utility payments, accounting for almost 27 percent of their annual operating budgets.

RMI’s Superefficient Housing initiative (SHI) is addressing this issue by collaborating with energy efficiency leaders to build healthy, cost-effective, and comfortable low-income housing units that save at least 60 percent of energy costs.

Watch the video from Thursday, November 15 of our Google hangout about our work to make affordable housing more efficient, selected by RMI’s National Solutions Council as the sponsored initiative for 2012. 

During the hangout, you’ll hear from:

James Brew
, RMI principal


Alexis Karolides

Alexis Karolides
, RMI principal


David Allen

David Allen
, NSC Chair and RMI Trustee 


We'll also be taking questions from our audience via Twitter and email. Send your questions to @RockyMtnInst using the hashtag #efficientaffordablehousing or send an e-mail to nsc@rmi.org.

The easiest way to watch this exciting discussion as it unfolds is to simply bookmark this page. We'll be streaming the conversation right here starting at 11:00 a.m. (MST) on November 15.

Alternatively, you can:

1. Go to RMI's YouTube page and click on the Feed tab.

2. Watch on RMI's Google+ page. (You must be a Google+ member and follow RMI's page on Google+.)

RMI’s National Solutions Council

The National Solutions Council brings together friends of Rocky Mountain Institute who are committed to understanding, supporting, and promoting RMI’s work to drive the efficient and restorative use of resources. Each year, NSC members select a scope of work to support by directing a portion of their contribution to a related project.

An annual gift of $1,500 or more includes membership to the National Solutions Council and supports RMI’s work in the four energy-intensive sectors: buildings, transportation, industry, and electricity. Learn more

Highlighted Resources


Leaking Energy and Money from Affordable Housing

Nice House But is it legal

Nice House, But Is It Legal?



Showing 1-8 of 8 comments

November 8, 2012

How much of this renewable energy can be produced without the "heat, beat and treat method", of current manufacturing processes. I am referring to Dr. Janine Benyus's research on "Biomimicry"; the endeavor to mimic nature in the creative process as it applies to our manufacturing and technological efforts. If she is not in the loop with you, she certainly should be. And if she will not endorse your efforts, I will not be able to either. I firmly believe in green energy. No plan is perfect. I just want to know how close your plan actually comes to being truly green.

November 8, 2012

Great initiative !

Just curious:
re: health and comfort, what metrics are you using?
do they address indoor environment?
are they modeled or measured/verified?
are health & other co-benefits being assigned economic values ?

re: future or life cycle costs, how are you addressing projected increases in fuel/energy costs?
increases in cooling demand & heat waves?
repair & maintenance costs?
what building lifetime(s) are you assuming?

Tom Phillips
Healthy Building Research
Davis, CA

November 14, 2012

Hello All,
Thank you for providing an open discussion on these critically important topics.
My questions are:
1) What size of homes are you considering? Square foot per resident? Size matters
2) What are the costs per square foot of these homes? Cost matters
3) I echo Tom's questions; Are energy savings or use 'projected, modeled or verified at end user'? As one who has used duct blasters, blower doors and done energy audits, I have many serious concerns over verification that doesn't verify at end user actually experience. This is a huge Achilles heal, in my estimation.
4) Also Tom's concern over indoor air quality is an increasing concern as we tighten houses and use more man made products. Where is the research and experience that integrates these two mutually opposed realities?
5) Lastly, can you address how meeting code as directly contributed to the lack of affordability in new housing stock?
Thanks for addressing my concerns. I will follow up once these are addressed.

November 14, 2012

I hope the R.M.I will build in a nontoxic manner and not use the usual particle board and plastic and cardboard . Please dont use toxic carpets but use renewable slate and concrete or at least chemical free carpets. People please build with naterials that do not rot or mold or blow away ina wind. Please consider nontoxic insulation and sustainable concrete domes that will outlive floods and fires and tornadoes and hurricanes. thanks daliya@nontoxic.com

November 15, 2012

I'm interested in what would be considered to be "affordable" housing. After having gone through the mortgage disaster/financial crisis, my views on what I can afford in this lifetime have really changed.

I have always been interested in energy efficiency and green design... but now I'm considering building my own home - smaller and self-financed. I will never work with a bank ever again. Any thoughts on how you could build a home like we're speaking of for less than $100k? Less than $50k?

November 15, 2012

With the wealth of existing building stock that needs improvement what if any focus will be placed on major retrofits or rehabilitation of facilities will be made with this initiative?

Is there an alignment with Passivhaus US resources?

November 15, 2012

What about smaller more space efficient designs that help to reduce cost.
What about new technology such as nano cellulose for glazing & sips?

November 15, 2012

Hurricane Sandy, is changing our thinking on how we build to accommodate every twist in Climate Change Weather in the near a distant future. Economical , Quality,Passive, Off Grid, Net Zero Energy Construction is a no brainier but a team must be in place working on practical solutions to fast changing conditions. This cannot wait we must start building now.

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