I was reading the paper the other day about home pools, a household icon of the 50’s that still plagues neighborhoods today. Don’t get me wrong, I like to swim, and lounging by the pool, partaking in the occasional ogle, isn’t the worst way to spend a hot afternoon. No, I am talking more about the home pool, the chemical filled holes in the backyard that are used not nearly as much as people thought they might, like a nice pair of Manolo shoes or an Armani suit.
There are 958,000 public and private pools in the state of California. If a tiny pool uses 30,000 gallons to fill, that is at least 285,000,000,000 gallons of water at any given moment, and that is a low number since many many pools are bigger than thirty thousand gallons. How many millions of gallons of chemicals to keep that water “clean”? How many of those pools are left to fester and become breeding grounds for mosquitoes? Now in some places, where it is oppressively hot I can see why you might want one – but wanting isn’t a good enough reason when talking about sustainable living. The environmental costs for private pools are huge. Pools no longer add to a home’s value like they may have 30 + years ago. With so many other options, like beautiful new public pools, the home pool just doesn’t make sense for sustainable builders. How do you justify the costs in terms of water use and pollution? I just do not see it.
And on to fireplaces. Another fixture of the modern home, who doesn’t love a nice fireplace? Well, me for one. Honestly, ask yourself when was the last time you actually used the thing? I think people like the idea of a fireplace far more than the actual fireplace itself. Maybe its the primal nature of the thing, maybe it reminds us of some distant past when we needed a fireplace to cook and keep us warm, maybe its nostalgia…
But hey, it is an item whose time has past. Given the efficiencies available in modern HVAC systems, coupled with the really excellent insulation options now available, fireplaces are just very last century. I am not going to even go down the whole “Burning things is bad” argument – rather I am going to just talk about the space itself. If you are doing a remodel, ask yourself if you need that space? Oftentimes the fireplace dictates how a room flows, restricts how you arrange your furniture, how you use a room, and for what? The one or two times a year you might take a match to the palace, if even that much? I find fireplaces to be a waste of space. They unbalance a living room, dictate focal points that don’t need to be there and limit your flexibility, all of which runs counterproductive to the most efficient use of a space, which is one of the keys to sustainable living. So if your doing a remodel, here is a radical idea, ask yourself if you really need a fireplace, does it really add value to the home, or are you better off without it? The planet is, of that I am certain.