Seeking a glimpse of a potential future when the term "trailer park" appeals to more than the passing tornado?
Look no further than the parking lot of the Science Museum of Virginia, where a mobile home with a giant roof-mounted racing spoiler collects the best of green living under one very, very odd roof.
"The roof among other things, the function is to trap rainwater for gray water recycling," explains David Hagan, a scientist at the museum who is as much a resident of the house as anybody in that he gives frequent tours of it -- though he's never slept there overnight. The washing machine, a small garden and other household systems use the residential wastewater from kitchen, laundry and showers.
Water's not the only thing that's trapped by this roof; its high northern exposure is mounted with 36 adjustable 200-watt solar panels that provide all of the house's electricity needs. Refrigerator, heat pump, stove, lights, computers even a recharging station for a small electric car have plenty of juice.
"And this house is selling power back to Dominion Virginia Power at a rate of about 70 cents per hour," Hagan says.
The house arrived at the Science Museum in January, still basking in its winning performance it took a number of first-place awards at the U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored 2005 Solar Decathlon event in Washington, D.C. Designed by the Virginia Tech Solar Decathlon team, it mixes form with function in an Ikea-meets-"Mr. Wizard's World" mash-up that's both eye-pleasing and food for thought.
There is, of course, a catch. This green dream home is likely to remain elusive for most consumers of average financial means. According to Hagan, the house would cost somewhere in the high $300,000s to build, and payback on investment would take years.
So for now, the only practical way to go green in your double-wide may be to keep diligently filling the recycling bins. But as for the future, dream on.