A 49-year-old guy in Long Island just installed a private elevator in his three-floor townhouse so his 7-year-old Jack Russell terrier doesn't have to walk up the stairs. That's what he told Newsday anyway, although the paper also points out that the man has had knee surgery and has a bad back.
Across America, it seems that private elevators are becoming more common, particularly in multilevel town homes and condos that are cropping up all over. The trend is following a shift from the classic American suburb spread, with a sizable yard and one or two stories, to denser-packed dwellings, often with very little or no yard and many levels. That's good in terms of reducing the need for toxic lawn chemicals and water-harming fertilizers, and can mean a smaller ecological footprint versus sprawling square feet.
But it can also contribute to the marching upward of the average size of living spaces, something that has enormous impact in terms of energy use. Obviously, private elevators represent big energy draws, and for the vast majority of people they are wholly unnecessary. In fact, in a nation plagued with obesity, heart disease and poor physical fitness, the idea of walking even less sounds frivolous at best.
As one would expect, installing your own lift takes some serious cash. Five years ago, it cost around $60,000, but in a drop that indicates their growing popularity, you can now have one put in for $20,000 to $40,000. A few communities are even being planned with an elevator as a standard feature.
Of course, people with real disabilities have a clear claim on elevators and similar technology, but the rest of us should think twice about installing one as a novelty or luxury. If you are getting on in years, it may be time to consider moving to a one-story structure, large apartment building or "mother-in-law" apartment in another home. With an aging population, we would do well to try to avoid ending up with an emissions-producing elevator in every Baby Boomer abode.
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