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2 Underlying Political Philosophy

II. Underlying Political Philosophy

1.      The Economy vs. the Homeowner

During the middle of the last century, as the United States evolved, so did the wide-spread development of building codes. They have been successfully imposed on society because they directly address public and infrastructure safety and well-being.  Codes that are harder to impose upon society are those that drive up the cost of construction for the sake of long-term comfort and energy efficiency. These types of codes are also considered unconstitutional by certain members of society in the United States.

The opposition to energy efficiency regulation is based on a pro-capitalistic philosophy of non-regulation for the home building and renovation job sector.  According to this shortsighted philosophy, initial poor construction and renovation will eventually contributes to the “economy”, a system on monetary exchange created by civilization, and then to the “gross domestic product” (GDP) of a nation, a concept held in high regard by those in charge which labels a nations placement of power in this world.  By subscribing to this type of philosophy it is impossible for an energy efficient home to be deemed as beneficial to our “disposable” society.  Waste is good.  Half-effective repairs are good.  If a homeowner wants a good repair, then they simply have to pay more for it but no standard should be set to gauge what “good repair” technically is to the unfamiliar homeowner.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the farsighted mindset of the pro-consumer philosophy (not to be confused with pro-consumerism).  It is a philosophy that seeks to protect the initial investment of the homeowner (a.k.a: the consumer; the taxpayer; the person with the money/credit/need; the bottom dweller of this ‘food’ chain) and to ensure the long-term value of their property.  The property does not end at the lot lines but extents out to the environment surrounding and supporting it.  Soils, rivers, air, energy sources, etc.  It is a belief that at this point in our development of civilization and technology, contractors should not have the right to skimp on quality that will undermine the long-term efficiency of a home.  The people of this country deserve to have homes that are built to last hundreds of years like those in Europe, instead of decaying at a rate that does not match our resources and ability to repair them. Longevity is good.  Efficient construction is good but it requires education. regulation and oversight.

2.      Transitioning in a New Era

Before the events of September 11, 2001, efforts were made by different governmental agencies to promote a transition to alternative energy sources but homes were not largely considered in this process.  Since 9/11, our society has been forced to look at how much waste there is in our oil based economy of which a large percentage comes from our inefficient homes. For example, air leaks in walls, attics and basements significantly drive up the cost of heating and cooling for the homeowner.  Protecting homeowner rights are now being teamed up with protecting our national security.  Programs like the United States Green Building Councils (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Program[1] have grown drastically in popularity and complexity since 2001.  In 2005, the Partnership for Home Energy Efficiency (PHEE) was created which is a multi-federal agency organization focused on bringing together current programs in order to further assist the transition to home efficiency in our society[2].

These efforts sound very optimistic for homeowners and for our nation but unfortunately, in the United States, many policymakers speak as though they subscribe to a farsighted philosophy in order to appeal to public sentiment but in the end shortsighted views often win control as seen with the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008[3].   It is easy to cause panic when there is so much dependence on a flawed financial system.[4]


[1] About the USGBC http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=124

[2] Energy Star: PHEE Overview http://www.energystar.gov/ia/home_improvement/PHEE_Overview_final.pdf

[3] House Committee on Financial Services: Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/financialsvcs_dem/press092808.shtml

[4] Zeitgeist: Addendum http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7065205277695921912#

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