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Applied sciences and engineering/Engineering/Mechanical engineering/Machinery/Engines/Turbines

DILLINGHAM, Alaska—Tom Marsik and Kristin Donaldson are building a house a few minutes’ drive from the center of this small city, a two-story model with peat-brown vinyl siding that blends easily with the yellows and golds of the tundra in early autumn. The location is stunning, but it’s only from the inside that you see the building’s defining characteristic: White-painted walls that are more than two feet thick.

It was cold, wet, and muddy in the large white tent that served as the home of the 2011 National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall, but it did not deter hundreds of people from coming to observe what one attendee called “a science fair for adults.”

Do you know how much water it takes to light your house? How about the electricity involved in watering your prize-winning tulips? As it turns out, it’s a lot more than you’d think.

Due to expected population growth and urbanization in the United States—especially in drought-prone Western States like Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Nevada—two top energy experts at a AAAS discussion urged the federal and local governments to explore new strategies to meet nation’s burgeoning water and electricity needs.