Early guide to living ‘green’ still useful
Forty years ago the University of Hawaii embarked on an ambitious program to find proof in the pudding. The "Hawaii Energy House" was constructed on the campus back 40 - a single-family home that used low-impact, natural materials and clever design to minimize energy use.
At the same time, the University of Hawaii Press published architect Jim Pearson's "Hawaii Home Energy Book," a comprehensive guide to building or modifying your own home, the lessons learned from Pearson's Energy House design.
We're talking what was essentially a pre-idiot's guide to kilowatts and therms, keeping a cool home with sun control and ventilation, efficient balancing of daylight and low-wattage lighting, using water- and energy-saving appliances, plus solar heaters and wind generators.
The book has long been out of print. The building, however, remains, albeit in much-weathered condition - and watch that first step on the entrance stairs.
Used as a residence for some years, then as classrooms, then suffering the indignity of becoming a kind of big storage locker, the Energy House was supposed to have been a model project and office for the University's former Office of Sustainability, an operation that was announced with some fanfare and then evaporated. It's currently being used for meetings by UH's Kuleana Program. According to Nat Pak, who mans the offices there, several of the systems, such as the solar panels, have deteriorated over the years from nonuse.
Last summer, a plan to restore the Energy House, with modern upgrades and scholarly attention from a half-dozen various campus departments, was announced. It's hard to tell how far they got, but that first step still needs fixin'.
The "Hawaii Home Energy Book," meanwhile, is still a useful introduction, and worth seeking out on the used-book market.