This article was originally published in the September/October 1994 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.



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Home Energy Magazine Online September/October 1994

Solar 1994 Sheds Light on Sustainability

The sky was appropriately sunny for the Solar '94--the twenty-third annual conference of the American Solar Energy Society and the 19th National Passive Solar Conference--held June 25-30 in San Jose, California. A meeting of minds was evident in the presentations at this traditionally bipolar, and occasionally contentious, gathering of active solar hardware types and their more holistic passive solar counterparts, with the dropping of the word sustainablity into discussions of economics. There were no earthshaking announcements of efficiency breakthroughs in the hardware arena, but the various solar factions found common ground under the banner of sustainability.

There were definitely a lot more sessions on sustainability this year, said conference co-chair Mary Tucker. We looked at the technical, hardware aspects of solar too, but there was an improved focus on how solar integrates with land use planning, with the environment, and with social justice issues.

That perspective was reflected in a plenary address by Paul Hawken who expanded on the ideas set forth in his recent book, The Ecology of Commerce. Hawken believes that although private enterprise is perhaps the most environmentally destructive force on the planet today, it is also the most powerful vehicle for achieving sustainability.

Noteworthy was an emphasis on planned developments, as opposed to individual buildings. Among the pre-conference field trips was a visit to Village Homes in Davis, California, which is often cited as a model and pioneer in solar housing development. A trip highlight was a meeting with the owner of an earth sheltered, sod-roofed house, which requires almost no space conditioning and little lighting during daylight hours.

In a session entitled Golden Opportunities for Buildings and the Housing Industry, Habitat for Humanity's development director Gene Crumley offered impressive and heartening statistics in a discussion of the organization's response to the devastation of 10,000 homes in Florida by Hurricane Andrew. Habitat's 200-unit development called Jordan Commons sets a precedent for the organization, Crumley said, incorporating a variety of simple resource-saving measures (see Rebuilding Dade County, Florida, HE, Jan/Feb '94 p.6). The project is significant considering Habitat's growth. Within a decade since its inception, Habitat has become the 17th largest builder in the nation, and expects to be the largest in another ten years. Jordan Commons will change Habitat, Crumley said.

Solar 95 will be held July 15-20 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. For information, contact ASES at (303)443-3130.

-- Abba Anderson

Abba Anderson, formerly Home Energy's associate editor, is a free-lance writer based in Forestville, California.


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