Making the Invisible Visible

Sustainability is often about making the invisible visible. It’s impossible to see which house is leaking energy in the winter.  Or where a watershed starts and ends.

I love when the invisible becomes visible. Third-party certification for coffee or buildings or cleaning products was created so customers can SEE that one choice is intentionally going above and beyond the bare minimum.

I love the window seats on planes, because suddenly, topography becomes obvious. Out west, you can see rainfall patterns, and erosion.  The abstract concept of a watershed becomes something you can see.

I also love those winter days when the roofs are covered in frost or a dusting of snow.  Suddenly, you can see heat escape.

Missing/No insulation

There is attic insulation, probably above the ceiling of the attic apartment, but the melted strip just left of the very white front room is either missing insulation or has air leaks in it. There appears to be no insulation below the peak of the attic.

If there are narrow strips of frost between wide bands of melting, there’s probably no insulation — the wood in the rafters “insulate” better than the air, like at the very tip top of the roof in the picture above.

Attic with insulation

The attic on the right has mostly complete insulation and you can see that the wood in the rafters has transferred heat more effectively than the insulated slants, melting the snow. (Of course, the dormer on the left appears uninsulated, and there is a gap or two on the front.)

If there are narrow strips of melting between wide bands of frost, it signals that there is insulation — the rafters transfer heat better than the insulation.

I’m constantly looking for tools to make energy, water, toxin, health or other more sustainable choices accessible to customers.  Without that knowledge, customers can’t necessarily make the choices they want to make.

How do we build energy or sustainability scores into apartment advertising or MLS forms for people looking for housing?  How can we add durability and repair-ability information to retail options?