Friday, September 1, 2017

Letters to a Young Architect: You Might Wonder

When you see references to the erosion of our freedom and quality of life, whether from me or others, you might wonder what the concern is all about.  After all, most of the referenced issues seem small and of little real consequence in light of the big picture of life,  and they arguably provide some benefits to society in any event:  for instance things like higher, more restrictive, and safer guardrails on houses, water and energy reductions for plumbing fixtures and appliances, solar orientation encouragement for new construction.  One concern is that the proliferation of new code requirements are seemingly unending.  The constant direction by those who think they know what is best for the rest of us spreads like the slow flow of molasses.  It’s like the parable of the frog placed in warm water that is very slowly heated with the end result that the unsuspecting frog never realizes that he has eventually been cooked to death.

California is presently striving to achieve net zero energy consumption for new houses.  Less use of our limited earthy energy sources (gas, electricity, wood) is apparently a good thing.  Right?  Absolutely, but think about the bottom line governing reason for transitioning to more plentiful energy sources. It’s pragmatic, shortsighted and self-serving:  to be able to squeeze in more people.  The nearby landscapes (and other species’ habitats) can be developed into more housing units and shopping centers and this is  where shortsightedness comes into play.  We may save some energy usage, but each additional person brings huge impacts on other freedoms and quality of life.  Not only does and will these new requirements  severely limit a plethora of choices from orientation of glass to selection and use of materials to the way houses are heated and cooled and water is used in every fixture, but it almost always implies that this is somehow good for one and all. Really?  Is the orientation of glass always best if it works well with solar gain?  What about privacy or views?  Does the State know what materials you should be surrounded by or how you should heat or cool your house?  Does the State really know how high your guardrails and handrails should be?  The growing number of regulations results in corresponding reductions  of both individual freedom and quality of life.

Rather than addressing the problems with more people controlled by less freedom and less quality of life why not strive for less people resulting in more freedom and more quality of life?