Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
"The biggest challenges efficiency-wise (ignoring luxury items) are transportation, cooking and internet servers. Those are the three things I think are hardest to provide for in a low-energy/resources scenario."

I was under the impression that the energy used for building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning was a significant "low hanging fruit." Relatively small changes in the way buildings are constructed and used could have a huge impact.

For example, in older buildings (e.g. high-end American houses built in the 1930s) there was frequently no arrangement at all for heat in the main entrance hall, staircase, or upstairs hall. But our new McMansions are usually built on open floor plans where the bedrooms and hallways and living rooms and dining rooms all merge together into one big space. Some fairly minor adjustments can be made to this arrangement without too much difficulty--just add some partitions and you can cut your heating bill by 1/3...

by asdf on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 09:58:23 AM EST
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I'd agree with that. Heating isn't such a big problem - I read that some newhouses in cold parts of Germany are heated purely by the body heat of the people living there and clever uses of insulation. I'm sick to death of the houses where I live in Bristol, UK, which can't have their old wooden sash windows  replaced because of planning regulations. Personally I think a building that leaks heat like a torpedoed boat doesn't deserve to be kept that way on aesthetical grounds (these are terraced homes hundreds of years old)

Despite such idiocies in planning councils, I think insulation can fix a lot heating problems. It's heat for cooking (ovens, hot plates, kettles) I worry about - natural gas is no answer, coal and wood creates supply problems and electrical is pretty power hungry.

Similarly transportation and internet servers (I think internet access of a decent speed is fast becoming an important human neccessity for both business and education) consume a lot of energy that will be difficult to replace.

by darrkespur on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 10:23:15 AM EST
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Servers can run on batteries for a while. Transportation can be done very effectively by electrified rail. That leaves cooking. But cooking is hardly time-critical - if one day you happen to not have power to spend on the kitchen, you can always eat cold food.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 12:33:18 PM EST
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What's the problem with electricity for cooking?
by asdf on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 08:52:13 AM EST
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It requires a lot of energy, simply because heat is energy. If you're trying to have a home with very little energy use, it's hard to reduce the amount of energy used to cook something, for what I can see.
by darrkespur on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 03:38:09 PM EST
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