Video Game Tests Your Green Building Skills




As is often the case in our culture these days, some of the greatest learning comes not from a textbook or the mouths of experts, but a video game. Welcome to www.mysusthouse.org, an interactive website starring a couple of anime/Playskool-ish figurines with heavy Scottish accents who steer visitors through the ins and outs of sustainable building… sort of.

Through animated lectures, you learn about climate change and environmental issues—building on brownfields, how polar ice caps are plunging into the sea. They tell you about alternative energy and building products, and then give you a budget of $100,000 and a series of multiple-choice questions about where and how to build your green home.

“The better the choices you make, the higher your score,” the little lad and lass say. A green-o-meter, ranging from Kelly to crimson, keeps you posted on your progress.

My goal: Go red all the way, and build the least sustainable house they’d let me. When asked where I’d like to place my house, I didn’t choose the city. I tried to choose highland (that’s hilltop to you and me), but it was such a poor choice it wouldn’t allow me to click, and I stuck with suburban instead. An OK choice, it told me. The meter hovered in the purple range. I asked that my refuse be disposed of by council or burned in my yard, rather than recycled or composted. Bad choice, it told me. A score of minus ten. I chose a concrete tile roof and mains power (which I think means standard government-run utilities) instead of solar, gas instead of geothermal heat. Poor choice, once again.

I made some bad water choices as well, and it gave me suggestions: put a rubber brick in the water cistern or get a water butt…whatever that means.

In the end, even with my environmentally unsound selections, my score was a mere minus four, and I still had four thousand bucks left in my coffer. Not that hard to build green, I guess, since you don’t to have to go through all the red tape and learning curves associated with green building.

It’s not really that user-friendly—there’s a lot of waiting for and um, sustaining, lectures by the little folks, a lot of waiting for the flash movies to load (though you get to watch a black-eyed Susan bloom in the meantime). Might be good for the little ones, though—if your four-year-old happens to have a knack for green building, this ought to satisfy the whole family. You’re never too young to learn about water butts.

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