Saturday, May 10, 2003

I'll huff and I'll puff ... ecoweenie alert!
Steve Brandt in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune provides some levity in Mold was the last straw for this 'innovative' house:
What makes it heartbreaking, people say, is how eagerly Sherri Simmons looked forward to moving into the new farmhouse-style house just off Lake Street in Minneapolis.

"I've been excited from beginning to end," she said in 1998 as the house neared completion.

This was no ordinary house. It was a house stuffed with straw -- in the walls, in the foundation, and, under the original plans, in the attic.

The nonprofit developers boasted that the house was only the third straw-insulated house erected under the Minnesota building code. They touted it as a groundbreaker for sustainable and affordable construction.

Then the straw began to rot.

Simmons no longer lives in the house because it no longer exists. It was condemned by the city and demolished last year.
Notice the keyword: "nonprofit".
Two Minneapolis nonprofit agencies, Southside Neighborhood Housing Services and the Community Eco-Design Network, teamed up in the mid-1990s and worked together on the straw-bale house.

Eco-Design co-founders Eric Hart and Rick Peterson said they could deliver a house with prefabricated modular construction for less cost than standard city-subsidized housing.

Their system included insulating straw bales stacked inside a post-and-beam frame. Instead of a basement, a slab of concrete was poured over additional bales.
Southside had a 20-year record of providing loans and grants to people with moderate or lower incomes to buy and renovate housing. It acted as the house's developer, while Eco-Design's role was winning plan approval, handling bidding and managing construction.

One preconstruction budget for the project totaled $91,000, but the house ended up costing more than $200,000, Hart said. The state contributed $20,000, and other nonprofits committed more. Southside absorbed the brunt of the costs, selling the house to Simmons for $83,000.
Nice discount! And it sounds like the taxpayers (AKA the "state") only got clipped for 20K! Such a deal! But wait, there's more.

I'll skip the construction details, the "volunteer" work crew charging their power tools with solar cells, the mold, and the city condemning the house after the removal of the moldy straw caused the house to sway in the wind. Instead, let's track down the money:
Still, condemnation didn't seal the house's fate. Southside could have made the repairs. But Rogers said Southside didn't have enough money.

In 2000, a state audit had severely criticized Southside's handling of more than $1.1 million in public money.
Notice the key phrase "public money". Our tax dollars are hard at work again. This time providing entertainment.