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Happy Earth Day...China

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Finally, someone in Miami is building a solar-powered, thoroughly green house. Dubbed “future house,” the pre-fab building will have geothermal heating and cooling, energy efficient lighting and appliances and a recycled roof. Photovoltaic panels will supply the bulk of its electricity needs.

So, what enlightened South Floridian had the foresight to take advantage of our year-round sunshine? No one. The house will be assembled in progressive, ecologically aware…. China. That’s right: The land of massive, river-destroying dams and world-beating pollution is beating us to the punch on solar power.

A team from Florida International University’s College of Engineering and Computing designed the house, which will be put up in Beijing along with houses designed by teams from eight other countries, including Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain, and Sweden. The project is part of China’s effort to showcase its interest in green living at the 2008 Olympics.

Yong Tao, an FIU engineering professor involved with the project, expressed regret at the lack of demand for such a house in South Florida. Most people are unwilling to make the investment solar power requires (costs to install are significantly more than conventional power sources), Tao said. “There’s a culture here. People want fast money.” A lack of meaningful tax incentives and an entrenched attitude among power companies and bureaucrats means little hope for solar in the short term.

Chinese crews broke ground on Future House’s foundation March 16. It is slated for completion by fall. --Rob Jordan

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