If “massive” is the first word that comes to mind in describing a supposedly green home, chances are you have an oxymoron on your hands. So before Google cofounder Larry Page gets too far with his plans to build a two-story, 6,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, GreenPoint-rated house next to his current $7 million home in Palo Alto, Calif. (local building codes prohibit him from putting up one big, big house), we’re going to make like Google Suggest and throw our 2 cents out there.
To be sure, Page plans to use some pretty cool stuff: Recycled materials that have low levels of volatile organic compounds (or none at all), a rooftop garden, solar panels, zinc cladding and pervious pavement, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. And the planned structure will likely take advantage of smart energy tools — IT technology that can help the homeowner better manage and reduce energy consumption — in particular Google’s PowerMeter.
But for all the green building materials and energy-saving devices, it will still be a big, new house requiring more materials and fossil-fuel-burning shipments to build, more energy to heat, cool and light than homes built (or renovated) on a smaller scale. As Salon reported when the “green mansion” trend started to take off a few years ago, most of the green elements people incorporate into their homes shrink the environmental impact by some 10-50 percent. But even if you’re on the high end of that, as Page can afford — and seems inclined — to be, a 50 percent reduction is offset by doubling the home’s size. So Page will not only get new digs, but a much bigger carbon footprint.