William Rose

“I’ll be referring in my talk to a document called “Environmental Quality of 1970,” the first annual report of the Council on Environmental Quality. It’s a remarkable document with a preface by Richard Nixon. Among the things it contains—it has a chapter entitled, “Man’s Inadvertent Modification of Weather and Climate,” which says, in effect, that we don’t know whether the climate will be going hotter or colder. We know that carbon dioxide makes it hotter, and we know that particulates in the atmosphere make it colder. We don’t know what the outcome’s going to be, but we do know that it’s human activity that governs the outcome.

That was in 1970, and this book was written by Republicans. And of particular interest was the fact that the Earth’s temperature stayed pretty even and may have even gone down a little bit between 1940 and 1970. So, they were right about this— and coming off of 30 years of no temperature rise.

The 1970 document is particularly good because it brings in issues that are often considered off the table—for instance, population. They were unafraid to speak about these things. In my opinion, many of the keynote talks that I’ve heard have been disappointing because I’ve wanted them to break through the boundaries of discourse that we set for ourselves, and I hope that I can do that. I hope that I can speak to issues in a way that makes other people want to talk about them more.

I think it’s also fair for a keynote speaker to try to provide the best answers and information there is, which sort of forecloses one discussion and opens up another. I think we need to feel freer about talking about a lot more things, about economic forces versus population as drivers for energy use in buildings.

One question that I’ve spent a lot of time with is, to what extent can efforts like Passive House energy conservation in buildings affect the eventual outcomes with regards to fossil fuel and carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere? And to what extent are we able to influence only the rate at which contributions will be made? What are we looking at if we assign different things importance? There are economic forces that are really strong. We’re now trying to talk about those as well.”

William B. Rose presents at the 9th Annual North American Passive House Conference on Friday, September 12th, at the San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront. 

Rose is a senior research architect at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Seichi Konzo, the principal author of double-wall superinsulation—the Illinois Lo-Cal House—was his university mentor. Mr. Rose’s university research is on energy and water in buildings. He is the author of the book Water in Buildings, and for 12 years he was the handbook chair of the ASHRAE committee responsible for the ASHRAE Handbook chapters on building envelopes.