(Part 1) A few thoughts on parking in Edmonton…

If asked to list Edmonton’s problems, a typical Edmontonian would likely mention potholes, snow removal, and taxes, which, when you think about it, are the things everyone wants from their municipal government: good infrastructure, effective services, and a reasonable cost of providing the two. Parking, being plentiful and inexpensive here relative to other similarly-sized Canadian cities, would probably escape mention.

Unless they were asking me. I’d put parking at the top of the list, and definitely not because we have too little of it. On the contrary, I’d argue that the abundance and cheapness of parking in our city directly and significantly contribute to the very problems listed above. When regulated incorrectly, as I think it is in Edmonton, parking drives up the costs of just about everything by wasting land that could be otherwise used more productively.

Although one could argue for a long time about whether, say, a consistently full lot that provides a employee parking for business during working hours is more or less productive than a mixed-use, medium-density commercial/residential complex, one thing that is not debatable is that an empty parking stall is less productive than just about anything. Unfortunately, empty stalls are something most North American cities (ours included) have no shortage of, thanks in large part to antiquated parking requirements like those found in Edmonton’s municipal zoning bylaw.

Such regulations generally prescribe a minimum amount of parking that is required for each development, based on some index of the development’s size or occupancy. (For example, apartment housing within the boundaries of the Downtown Area Redevelopment plan requires a minimum of 0.5 spaces per bachelor suite, 0.75 spaces per 1 bedroom dwelling, 1 parking space per 2 or-more bedroom dwellings, and 1 visitor parking space per 7 dwellings;  commercial developments with area greather than 28 000 m² require 4 parking spaces per 100 m² of floor area; etc). These minimums consistently result in an oversupply of parking spaces (particularly in the suburbs) because, most commonly, they are not determined using logical means (eg, research and analysis of the jurisdiction within which they are prescribed). Instead, they are usually based on either flawed and outdated handbook data or surveys of neighbouring/similar districts  — districts which themselves most likely use similarly illogical techniques to set their parking regulations. Because the handbook data (typically from the Institute of Transportation Engineers) is intended to represent peak conditions (and generally skewed toward providing an oversupply of parking), and because almost every district in North America oversupplies parking, determining parking regulations in this manner consistently results in a surplus of parking stalls.

So why are too many parking stalls a problem? Because they cost money –although parking is (usually) without a price, it is not without a cost. Someone has to acquire, upgrade, maintain, and pay taxes on the countless hectares of land our city uses to store automobiles:  businesses, residents, or governments, community groups, etc. Forcing these parties to build a minimum amount of parking reduces the efficiency with which they can allocate their resources. They force public officials, for example, to devote money (sometimes very significant amounts, particularly if parking structures of any kind are required) to parking stalls that may or may not be used, instead of letting the officials determine levels of parking at which additional stalls would not serve the public better than enhancements to the facility they’re building. Such inefficiency drives up the costs of all buildings, which increases the cost of doing business and of housing and ultimately reduces the city’s standard of living and  competitiveness vis-a-vis other districts.

Effectively, parking minimums represent a subsidy to drivers on behalf of property owners. (In the absence of parking minimums, many property owners would undoubtedly continue with standard practise, but I would argue that they should at least be given a choice). The imposition of such a subsidy could potentially be acceptable if it served societal goals, but this subsidy does just the opposite: by reducing the intensity with which land is developed and engendering automobile use, parking minimums reinforce and underlay sprawl, further entrenching a mode of growth cities continent-wide are trying to escape.  Research has also shown that excessive, artificially inexpensive parking frustrates efforts to increase transit usage, and makes sites on the urban fringes more attractive as their lower land costs significantly reduce the cost of providing parking. In short, parking minimums actively work against almost every long-term development goal our city has.

So, what’s to be done? That will be the subject of a subsequent blog post. For now, I’ll point out that I’m certainly not advocating the eradication of parking in Edmonton. Rather, I’d simply like to see thoughtfully designed parking policies that further our city’s objectives replace the current set of regulations, derived from outdated convention, that frustrate progress in almost every respect.


More Articles on Alberta High Speed Rail

From the Western Standard:


A case for the Calgary-Edmonton high-speed train

Robert Vineberg with the Canada West Foundation wants to know what’s holding up a Calgary-Edmonton high-speed train?

Robert Vineberg – July 20, 2009

The release, on July 6, of the Government of Alberta’s report on a Market Assessment of High Speed Rail Service in the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor leads to the consideration of a number of political and policy issues, both provincially and nationally, that might be resolved or, at least, substantially mitigated by a high speed train project.

The Alberta Government faces several problems that could be solved by introducing high speed train service in the Edmonton-Calgary Corridor. Alberta has to show the world that it is committed to a greener economy; it has to improve its transportation infrastructure; and, it has to develop more economic alternatives to the oil and gas industry.


An electrified high speed train service between Edmonton and Calgary would take passengers from downtown Calgary to downtown Edmonton in about an hour or an hour and a half, depending on the technology chosen. This would reduce green house emissions by millions of tonnes, as travellers switch from cars that take at least three hours to make the trip or planes that take as long, including time for check-in and security and time to get to and from the airports.

The transportation infrastructure, particularly in the Edmonton-Calgary Corridor, will need massive upgrading as the population of Alberta continues to grow rapidly. Highway 2 can be endlessly expanded in to a “401 West” or be transformed into a true transportation corridor by the addition of high speed rail. A fast, frequent and reliable rail service linking downtown Calgary, Red Deer and downtown Edmonton, with suburban stations at or near Calgary International Airport and Edmonton International Airport, would be an enormous improvement to Alberta’s transportation network.

In addition, if Alberta were to opt for a high speed rail system, it would be in a strong position to ensure that some of the production facilities be built in Alberta. Manufacturing facilities for the rail and related industries would considerably expand Alberta’s industrial base. In addition, the planning and construction of such a major project would create new expertise within Alberta’s engineering and design industry and create thousands of ongoing jobs. The Alberta Government’s accompanying report on Economics Benefits for Development of High Speed Rail Service in the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor, documents the huge economic benefits that might be generated by the project.

A high speed train from Calgary to Edmonton could also serve to get the Federal Government out of a tight spot. It is inevitable that a high speed train service will be introduced in the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto corridor and, in time, extended to both Quebec City and Windsor. It is also inevitable that federal money will be necessary for a project of such scale. And, it is inevitable that the Federal Government would be criticised for making such an enormous investment in Central Canada. Inevitable, that is, unless the Federal Government had already invested in a “demonstration project” elsewhere in Canada, namely the Calgary-Edmonton corridor. Why would the west criticize the Federal Government for making the same investment in high speed rail in Central Canada that it had already made in Alberta? Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the Federal Government would also support a high speed rail project in Alberta.

So, given that it is in the interests of both the Government of Alberta and the Government of Canada, not to mention the travelling public, what’s holding up a Calgary-Edmonton high speed train?

12 Councillors, 12 Wards: More Than A Dozen Reasons Why…

Edmonton City Council has passed in first reading the approval of the 12 ward system. The proposal will be coming to Council for a second and third reading on July 22nd. Edmonton will potentially join many other cities in establishing a more accountable and more democratic system of representation. It is expected to pass, but it never hurts to send a note to your councillors@edmonton.ca letting them know that you support this decision.


Philosophically, it is the right thing to do.


Under the old 6 Ward system, the constituent populations had gotten to an unmanageable level. Campaigning required trying to connect with ward populations of over 100 000 constituents- an almost impossible task. Such large wards naturally favored the incumbents during campaigns based on name recognition– no campaign team could knock on every door. 

The increased cost of campaigning over such a vast region left many candidates more dependent on large donations and saddled with the real-or-perceived political baggage that came with them. More ordinary Edmontonians will now be able to throw their hat into the race, leading to a more accessible, competitive, and engaged democratic debate. 

A 12 Ward system will make for more equitable campaigns, but it will also make for more effective representation. Councillors constantly had to check for duplication of efforts and often the higher-profile Councillor ended up getting the lion’s share of the phone calls and constituent calls. Now there is a clear line of accountability between the Councillor, their constituents, and their concerns. A citizen is always welcome to contact the Mayor, or any Councillor for that matter, with a problem, especially if they do not feel that their elected representative is being effective. However, Councillors will likely have more time to be effective representatives now that they have a smaller constituency base to attend to. 

The concern that Councillors may become too focused on just their ward is mistaken; they are elected to attend to the interests of the city as a whole and judging by how many issues are multi-jurisdictional, it is likely this cooperation will continue.


The map is sound. 


Though it is unfortunate that the Municipal Government Act (MGA) has Councillors drawing up their own constituencies, the wards are well-justified:

– It effectively follows natural geographic boundaries (the river, calgary trail, etc

– It respects community league boundaries, with a couple of minor changes– quite impressive considering that there are 150 leagues.

– It takes into account population variance (61, 276 to 70,840 (-6.1% to +8.6%)) and elector variance (48,529 to 62,152 (-8.0% to +17.9%))

– It takes into account the potential for future growth.


For future consideration:

– Council should not be left to draw up their own boundaries, but they should be established by a non-partisan electoral body.

– The MGA should allow for preferential balloting in elections. This would allow candidates to be ranked according to voter preference. It can easily be done with electronic voting.

– Tax credits should be allowed for municipal campaign contributions.


bettProposed 12 Ward Map

The Buses of Bogotá

The Buses of Bogotá – Video Library – The New York Times.

Quite the improvements…


Paper, Plastic and Persistence

Paper, Plastic and Persistence – Video Library – The New York Times.



An energetic group of volunteers spreads the word about recycling to residents of one of New York City’s public housing projects.


“If we can do it here in the public housing, people can do it anywhere. I hope it becomes contagious.”

Sustainable Works

The Greater Edmonton Alliance is working on a new ec0-program this summer. Along with championing local food, this organization has it hands in many different causes that work for the greater good.

Sustainable Works Pilots to get underway this summer

Sustainable Works will complete retrofits on 15 pilot project homes this summer.

Sustainable Works is a project aimed at lowering the utility bills of a large number of Edmonton households while creating green jobs and lowering Alberta’s carbon footprint.

“Utlity bills are really the elephant in the room when it comes to housing costs for families. Some families are paying more than 25% of their housing cost to utility companies,” says Jeff Gusdal, of Trinity Lutheran Church.

GEA is organizing to launch the Sustainable Works Project on November 18th, 2009 at St. Theresa’s Catholic Parish.

“Our plan is to have 500 citizens pledged to complete Sustainable Works Audits in 2010 and to have major player from government, utility companies, and financial institutions present at the Assembly in November,” say Laura Jeffrey’s, GEA Assoicate Organizer.

GEA is hosting a Sustainable Works Organizing Training and Neighbourhood Canvass on July 18th- click here for details.

Alberta Views – “Kill (Your) Bill”

Alberta Views – “Kill (Your) Bill”.

This whole Alberta Views July issue was awesome, but this particular article is definitely worth a read. Chris Turner is a great writer and if you haven’t picked up “The Geography of Hope” I strongly recommend it.


IF YOU’D LIKE TO SEE A SORT OF SNEAK PREVIEW of what Alberta’s future could look like, you’ll find it in a warehouse that comprises part of a bland, big-box commercial strip in southeast Calgary. The sign out front reads “EasyMax Homeservices,” and the warehouse is accessed through a generic office space where Enmax customers can come to order new heating and air-conditioning systems.

Wikipedia What is Microgeneration.

Enmax (an energy utility wholly owned by the City of Calgary) has long been one of the province’s most vocal proponents of “microgeneration,” the production of electricity by homeowners. Homes with solar panels on their roofs or wind turbines in their backyards can generate their own electricity instead of relying solely on companies operating big centralized plants powered by coal or gas. As part of an ambitious plan which will see the homes of 250 Enmax employees retrofitted with small-scale green-power generators over the next year (this as a test run of a broader rollout to all its customers in 2010 or 2011), Enmax has gathered the leading microgeneration candidates at the back corner of this nondescript warehouse.

A solar thermal panel (which harnesses the sun as a water heater) has been mounted on a large plank and rests propped against the wall like a half-completed home improvement project in some do-it-yourselfer’s garage. Along one stretch of wall, household-scale wind turbines have been stacked neatly in their shipping boxes. Elsewhere a couple of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, await the chance to generate electricity in southern Alberta’s annual 300-plus days of sunshine.

It all looks no more substantial than a specialty aisle at the rear of a Home Depot, and some of this stuff—the solar water heaters and PV panels in particular—has been on the market for years. In other jurisdictions around the world, from sunny California to oft-dreary northern Germany, forward-thinking legislation has turned rooftop solar into a household feature as common as a skylight. By one report, though, there are only about 100 microgeneration installations in all of Alberta right now. At a guess, I’d say the assortment of demo-project materials in Enmax’s warehouse could nearly double that.

Still, none of this—the panels and turbines, the workaday warehouse and Enmax’s bold plan to expand far beyond it—would be of much significance without the necessary bureaucratic infrastructure. This was created only recently: Alberta’s “Micro-generation Regulation,” officially AR 27/2008T, was passed on the first of February 2008 and came into effect on New Year’s Day, 2009. It’s a simple and fairly common piece of policy, a document similar to ones enacted in several other provinces, all but a handful of American states and just about every country in Europe. AR 27/2008T obliges owners of electricity utilities to install a new kind of electricity meter on the houses of any and all customers who would like to generate their own renewable energy and feed it back to the grid in exchange for a credit on their power bills. You’ll generally hear this process referred to as ” net metering” or “two-way metering.” AR 27/2008T, in short, enables Albertans to reduce their power bills by generating green power in or on their homes and selling it back to their utility at the same rate for which they might otherwise purchase it.

Pembina Institue
…analysis of Alberta’s power production and energy efficiency

What fanfare there was to greet AR 27/2008T was mostly muted. A Pembina Institute spokesperson characterized it as “a positive baby step,” while Enmax CEO Gary Holden called it a “critical first step.” Only the Edmonton Journal mustered any real enthusiasm. With AR 27/2008T, the Journal reported, “Alberta entered a new energy age.”

How, you might wonder, could a whole new age be ushered in by a single baby step? Well, consider the difference between a spark and a raging bonfire—and moreover consider the essential continuity between them, which of course can only be seen in retrospect. AR 27/2008T is, for now, just a spark, and it could easily fade to a cinder. With the right kind of fuel, however, it could be the start of a mighty conflagration indeed. Or, actually, the end of the greatest conflagration in human history—our 200-year bonfire of the fossil fuels—and the beginning of the sustainable new age of renewable power.

Some simple legislation could accelerate that shift— complementary policy initiatives to make AR 27/2008T into something downright epochal. The Alberta government could provide strong incentives for the installation and perhaps even the manufacture of microgeneration systems, whether by tax rebates, direct government investment or some kind of favourable-interest-rate loan scheme. Or it could decide it truly wanted to lead the transition to a 21st century economy, in which case it could pass the much more ambitious legislation known as a “feed-in tariff,” a powerful policy measure that sets prices above market rates for electricity generated by renewable sources. The feed-in tariff has transformed several European countries (most notably Germany) into titans of the renewable-energy industry in less than a decade, and the Ontario government seems intent on importing the policy wholesale later this summer. Alberta could take a lead role in the manufacture and implementation of the technologies that will drive this new economy—if it’s ready to fully embrace the future.

“Skip ahead 15 years, and witness a dream nearly realized.”

BACK AT THE ENMAX WAREHOUSE, ON A PALLET in front of the shelfload of tiny wind turbines, there stands a sleek metal appliance with a digital display mounted along its top rim. It’s a miraculous little machine, one that might prove to be the most revolutionary in Enmax’s microgeneration arsenal. You could easily mistake it for a dishwasher, but it is in fact limitless abundance of energy-dense fossil fuels relegated the frugal Stirling to the dusty back corner of the lab for the past hundred-plus years. This is pretty much where the Stirlingpowered WhisperGen was when Gary Holden—at the time the chief executive of TransAlta’s New Zealand subsidiary— discovered it on the campus of the University of Canterbury in Christchurch in the mid-1990s.

Holden: “What I found was a university laboratory with wires and gauges and pipes everywhere, and some sheet-metal contraptions to capture the heat. It was a relatively crude example of the technology. But I understood its potential back then, and when I asked the inventor—he was a 28-year-old grad student at the time—he said, ‘Well, my vision for this is to see one of these in every home in Europe.'”

Skip ahead 15 years, and witness a dream nearly realized. The lab project gave rise to a technology start-up that sold the little devices to yacht owners, and that start-up was eventually bought by New Zealand’s state-owned power company, Meridian Energy. Meridian recently entered into an agreement with Mondragon of Spain to start churning out 30,000 WhisperGens per year, with the intent of bringing them to a great many homes throughout the efficiency-obsessed European market.

All well and good if you happen to be Spanish or Danish, but what relevance does any of this have to an average Alberta homeowner? Well, consider the value proposition for the WhisperGen, the thing that convinced Holden to bring it all the way from New Zealand: the WhisperGen can be installed in any basement in Alberta, about as quickly and easily as any old boiler, where it can be connected to the existing natural gas line and used to heat the entire house much more efficiently than a conventional gas furnace. In addition, the WhisperGen’s chief by-product is a steady stream of electricity, which could be connected to a two-way meter to offset a significant portion of the home’s power bill. It does more heating with less fuel, and it discounts your electricity bill as a side effect.

Get Holden going about it and he’ll paint a rosy Jetsonian future just a few years off where the benefits of that softly whirring Stirling engine begin to multiply all but exponentially. “You have a plug-in hybrid car in your garage, and in the middle of the night when your lights are off and your TV’s off and everything, your demand is low, you take the power from your Stirling engine [to] your car and you drive to work each day,” he says. “It’s actually a benefit that even solar power doesn’t create, because you’re generating electricity in the off-peak hours, and the synergy that has with plug-in hybrid vehicles is amazing. And so then you get into payback periods that are just unbelievable. You’ll be paying the equipment off in months, because you’re offsetting some of your power bill during the day when it’s running, and you’re offsetting a huge fuel bill in your vehicle during the night.”

Holden was not the first executive I’d found starry-eyed by the revolutionary potential of this “energy Internet” idea. Last October—the same week that the global economy began its plummet, I sat in on a conference call at the end of theRocky Mountain Institute’s three-day “Smart Garage” charette. The RMI (a Colorado-based energy efficiency think tank) had gathered together senior executives from a cross-section of Fortune 500 companies—Ford and Nissan, Duke Energy and PG&E, Cisco, Google and IBM—to explore the feasibility of building a next generation of infrastructure, an energy Internet it christened the “smart garage.” The assembled industrial heavyweights envisioned the harnessing of green power (produced at household or regional scale) to feed plug-in hybrid cars, which then used Internet technology to automatically coordinate recharging and the sale of excess power back to the grid, based on the energy demands of a given home or workplace and the current price of electricity. The consensus was that the technology already existed; it simply needed a few big players—automakers and utilities in particular—to begin manufacturing the right kinds of cars and installing the right kinds of infrastructure. “It’s hard to see another infrastructure play,” RMI’s Michael Brylawski concluded, “that has so many simultaneous benefits—oil security, climate, jobs.”

In the months since RMI’s “smart garage” confab, Barack Obama’s new administration has announced generous incentives for electric-vehicle buyers, and Hyundai has promised to bring a plug-in hybrid to North American roads by 2012, where it’s expected to join the new plug-in Toyota Prius, the Chevy Volt and the debut plug-in vehicles from Chinese upstarts like Build Your Dream (this as part of the Chinese government’s recently declared goal of manufacturing half a million electric vehicles per year by 2012). And, of course, Calgary’s own Enmax has unveiled a suite of funky new microgeneration technologies particularly well suited to feeding juice to such vehicles.

“Your economy’s joined the front ranks of the green-collar boom that dug the industrial world out of its recessionary rut…”

SO THERE’S A FUTURE, ALREADY TECHNOLOGICALLY feasible, the bulk of it indeed already sitting in a warehouse overlooking the Deerfoot Trail, in which you plug your car in at night and drive off the next morning using the excess electricity generated by your furnace while you slept. Maybe you’ve decided to go even further and put some solar panels on the roof, in which case you can whistle happily through the day’s work at your office while your house is feeding the provincial grid with peak-load power, busily chewing away at its own utility bill. Your car, meanwhile, figures out the price of electricity that day and if it’s looking profitable, it sells the extra power in its battery pack to the building you work in.

You are less reliant on the vertiginous fluctuations in oil and natural gas prices, your provincial government has come to realize it will never need to build another coal-fired power plant and will soon shutter those that remain, and these basementscale Stirling engines proved so popular that they built a big factory down next to the Deerfoot to manufacture the things for the whole North American market, so you even know people that have stable jobs building them. Your economy’s joined the front ranks of the green-collar boom that dug the industrial world out of its recessionary rut, and though you still hear the occasional grumble from afar about the emissions-belching tar sands, you just as often hear about another refugee of the Okanagan drought arriving in Calgary to work in WhisperGen sales. When the Edmonton Journal talked about a new energy age dawning, this is what it was driving at.

Let me reiterate: this is all already technologically feasible. Indeed, it’s much closer at hand than a scenario in which some indeterminate portion of the emissions from the province’s fossilfuelled power plants is carried away via pipeline for injection into a permanent reservoir deep beneath the boreal forest—by which I mean carbon capture and storage (CCS). The Alberta government, however, has sunk $2-billion into CCS this year alone, and it has made no direct investment whatsoever into microgeneration. The province’s preference, it would appear, is to help big corporate polluters instead of putting clean, moneysaving tools in the hands of regular taxpayers.

Gary Holden of Enmax, for his part, is optimistic that the technology fund created by the provincial carbon tax could be a sufficient source of funding to create the proverbial “level playing field” for energy production in the province. (At present, as Holden notes, existing fossil-fuelled power plants have an unfair advantage owing to the vagaries of energy pricing—”historical averaging,” for example, whereby current prices are determined not by what it costs to generate power today, known as the “marginal cost,” but rather by the total cost of electricity production over the life of the plant.

I’d argue, though, that a far more ambitious plan is warranted. Perhaps something like Germany’s feed-in tariff model, which involves setting prices higher than market rates for green sources, thus going far beyond encouraging the odd “alternative” installation, instead putting renewable power at the very centre of the energy market. In the German case, the feed-in tariff in less than a decade created an industry that employs 250,000 and turns over $40-billion in annual revenues. And it did so by increasing the average German’s power bill by about $50 per year. Of course, hundreds of thousands of Germans opted instead to stick solar panels on their roofs, sell green power back to the grid and offset the price hike—and then some.

“And so the question for the province,ultimately, is whether it intends to lead or merely follow reluctantly along.”

I firmly believe, after four years and counting spent circling the globe on the sustainability beat, that this new age has already begun. Microgeneration is as disruptive to our relationship with energy as digital technology has been to human communication. And its full potential is much greater, because electricity enables so many more of life’s necessities than telephones and mail services ever did.

The first places to understand this potential, to leap for it and grab on tight, will become the industrial leaders of the 21st century and beyond. Significant swaths of Europe are already a generation ahead of us, California is coming on strong, and Ontario appears intent on passing the continent’s most ambitious renewable energy legislation this summer. Distributed, scaled-down power generation has already turned a Danish former farm-machinery manufacturer (Vestas) into the world’s largest wind turbine maker and transformed the collapsed industrial heartland of the former East Germany into the epicentre of the world’s solar industry. The first massmarket electric car will likely be made in China, and the furnace of Canada’s brightest future will almost certainly be built for the first time on an industrial scale in Spain, using a design developed in New Zealand.

The map of this new industrial order is already being sketched in. AR 27/2008T isn’t enough to mark Alberta’s place on it—but it is a start. And so the question for the province, ultimately, is whether it intends to lead or merely follow reluctantly along.

A House on the Prarie
(Video 17min 42s)

Builders experiment with enery efficient designs in 1978.

We can only wonder, for now, what a courageous commitment to a sustainable future might mean for Alberta. It could start, though, with Enmax’s nifty new turbines and panels—and, most enticingly, its WhisperGens. “I think it’s such a good technology,” Holden told me, “that it’s easy for me to picture, 20 years from now, every single-house dwelling or apartment block would be inherently built around Stirling engines.”

Holden likens this to the state of electric refrigeration in the 1920s: an unknown, bewildering technology, a bizarre contraption that squatted right there in your kitchen, stuffed full of exotic gases with sci-fi names, doing a job the good ol’ icebox already accomplished just fine, thanks. When it came to keeping things cold, who’d even think of competing with ice? Holden: “It was the electric utilities that sold those units first; your local utility would come and service it. It was that extra level of comfort provided by the utility that led to the widespread use of refrigerators. I see this technology being exactly the same. Utilities need to give the comfort, utilities need to show how the economics can be positive.”

Well, I was fully sold. Alas, Holden explained that it’d still be a couple years at least before I’d be able to install a WhisperGen in my own home. I can only hope my 25-year-old gas furnace holds out until then. I have no intention, in any case, of installing another “conventional” appliance of any sort in my basement. There’s no future in that.


Chris Turner is author of The Geography of Hope. His “The Big Decision” (AV, Oct 2008) won a National Magazine Award.