What's red, white, blue...and green all over?

Listen, children, to a tale of a land far, far away from California’s solar-panel buyers, a place called Crawford, Texas.  There, on a 1,600-acre plot of hot, dry prairie land, sits a modest home heated in winter and cooled in summer by a network of pipes laid 300 feet underground, where the earth is 67 degrees all year round.  Imagine a house that uses water pumped again and again through these pipes to keep not too cold, not too hot, but always just right.


Now who do we guess might live in this sustainable, green, utopian home?  Why, President Bush, of course.

It’s true, President Bush’s Prairie Chapel Ranch—bought in 1999 and completed in 2001—is so thoroughly off the grid that the renewable energy website Off-Grid and green celebrity blog Ecorazzi both recently devoted in-depth profiles to the Western White House. 

David Heymann, the green architect commissioned to design Prairie Chapel, says that while eco-designs for the ranch were implemented with conservation in mind, there were also practical and financially advantageous choices in a hot and relatively isolated region where water is scarce.

Still, let’s give credit where credit is due.  The home is impressive.  “Passively solar,” it’s positioned to allow for maximum absorption of the sun’s heat in winter, and at 4,000 square feet, Heymann calls it “startlingly small,” at least by “marketplace standards.”  Thanks to the geothermal system, the home operates on a mere 25% of the electricity it might otherwise require.  The geothermal system even heats the home’s outdoor pool—so efficiently, in fact, that original plans for additional solar paneling were cancelled. 

Various gardens and grounds on the property are irrigated by a Greywater system that channels shower, sink, toilet water and rainwater into enormous underground purifying tanks.  Furthermore—icing on the cake—Off-Grid reports that the walls of the home were built from cheap Luders limestone scrap material, quarried locally, that other homebuilders had thrown away.

Bush could not have built a more illustrative model for market-driven sustainability if he’d tried—both the innovator and the earth profit.  Now let’s see if Bush can walk the walk for the rest of the U.S. of A as well.

-Tobin Hack 


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Issue 25

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