A narrow path
The issue we are tackling now, isnt one of 'is this possible?' Its one of 'can we navigate this?'
We cannot be sure that we will be able to live in this house for enough years to be free to renovate it just to fit our criteria. We have to keep in mind the possibility of having to sell it. That means keeping our expenditure consistent with the potential value of the place. We are picking our way along the narrow space between the solid wall of the money we can spend, and the precipice of what the market will pay. Our broker has been at pains to make us aware of how New York home buyers do not value sustainability, and will not even buy a house that recycles its water, let alone pay a premium for it. So we have been trying to create a design that remains consistent with the expectations of people with the money and desire to buy a town house on the upper west side of Manhattan, and our wish to build something that is environmentally sustainable. We also have to make sure we spend enough! If we under invest, then we risk devaluing the place by more than we save.
We are getting really close to being energy zero over a one year cycle, which is attractive to anybody with brain cells, even as America is fracking its way into the history books, and bringing the price of gas down low enough to render sustainable energy sources uneconomic when calculated in short term costs (which is pretty much the only way people make those calculations at the moment).
We just cannot deal with water in an environmentally sustainable way, without incurring design and construction costs, and possible time delays, that risk spending more on the place than we can absorb on sale.
Most people arent interested in what happens to the water after it flows down the hole, or how it got to the bath taps in the first place, so our bathroom still has to be stylish and slick, with tiles and glass and mirrors.
We start taking out asbestos and other nasties soon, so at least things will start to look as tho something is happening.