How First-Time Homeowners Can Create a Sustainable Home

How First-Time Homeowners Can Create a Sustainable Home

As more alarming studies surrounding climate change come out, scientists are recommending that people take real action to prevent the disasters of global warming. A great way for individuals to start is by rethinking eco-friendly housing practices. First-time homeowners should take this into consideration when making their move.

There are a variety of ways first-time homeowners can create a more sustainable home for the future and by using these tips, you can prepare your home with environmental sustainability in mind.

Utilize High-Performance Windows

Energy efficient windows provide a variety of benefits for new homeowners. Once the windows are installed, homeowners can see increased savings on their heating and cooling bills. High-performance windows not only boost the natural sunlight coming into your home, but they also reduce the need for lights until nighttime. Ultimately, this is a great way to save money on electricity as well. These windows can decrease the amount of weather-related noise such as rain, wind, snow or hail.

If you want to improve the overall comfort within your home, these windows also have the benefit of helping to prevent any unwanted drafts or gusts of wind. Even the new technology built into these windows can help prevent condensation build up, which saves the need to wipe down your windows, and over time, reduces the likelihood of mold and mildew. If you need assistance installing these eco-friendly windows, consider hiring a professional to help. That is the simplest way to get concrete results.

Invest in Eco-Friendly Appliances

Another step you can take to become more eco-friendly is to invest in energy-efficient appliances. Regular home appliances use loads of energy, contributing to the creation of excessive greenhouse gases. Eco-friendly appliances are essential for homeowners who want to be more environmentally conscious but with as little disruption as possible to their day to day routine. New homeowners can also save money by installing these types of appliances since the more energy efficient  an appliance is, the lower the utility bill.

When moving into a new home, it’s critical to invest in appliances that not only limit greenhouse emissions but also conserve water. Before buying these appliances, check for the right size, scan for any EnergyGuide labels that compare energy usage, and make sure that there are sufficient energy-saving settings. If you like to plan for the future and be prepared, you should look into getting a home warranty that will provide peace of mind if any unexpected issues arise down the line. Nobody wants to scramble for last minute repairs, so home warranties eliminate the stress and hassle of coming up with the necessary money at a moment’s notice. Implementing this at the beginning of your time there will help you save money in the long-run, especially for new homeowners.

Consider Solar Panels

Solar-powered systems are able to derive clean and natural energy from the sun. Installing solar panels on your home will help reduce your dependence on power companies, resulting in fewer greenhouse gas emissions from the power plant. Most of our traditional electricity supply systems are sourced directly from fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas which, when burned to produce electricity, emit harmful greenhouse gases that are a primary cause of air pollution and global climate change.

The most common solar panels are ones placed on the roof of your property. New homeowners should take into account the amount and size of panels that they want, as well as the location and direction the panels will need to face. The most common direction is south-facing, however, not every home has the same options Much like every home addition, it would be a lot easier to hire a solar contractor to assist with your eco-friendly aspirations rather than taking on such a big project on your own. This way, you not only save yourself time and energy, but you can confidently implement these costly tools.

Evaluate your Home’s Insulation

Before buying or moving into a new property, every homeowner must reevaluate the home’s insulation. This feature can provide a variety of functions to increase your overall comfort while cutting costs and saving energy. Effective insulation can protect your home from extreme outdoor temperatures while creating more consistent indoor temperatures. It can also increase your home’s indoor air quality and help control the humidity. It’s best to implement air sealing and home insulation together.

Air sealing helps to keep unwanted, outside air from filtering in through cracks, gaps, and holes, by essentially creating an air barrier along the exterior of your home. Insulation works a bit differently in that it provides resistance to the transfer of heat, thus keeping heat inside in the winter and outside in the summer. In other words, insulation acts as an effective thermal barrier. Finding nooks and cracks in your home’s armor and evaluating your home’s insulation begins with an energy audit. During an energy audit, a home performance expert will inspect your home and administer several diagnostic tests to assess the efficiency of your home. This inspection will help target problem areas that are undermining home comfort and efficiency.

Implement Smart Systems

Smart home automation systems are critical when it comes to creating a more efficient and sustainable home. There are a variety of gadgets new homeowners can utilize to get the most out of their home in an eco-friendly way. A smart thermostat, for example, can automatically change temperature based on your preferences along with a specific schedule. Even lights can be programmed to shut off at a certain time to save energy. Smart home automation can also help you maximize home security practices so that your home surveillance system can be accessible from the palm of your hand.

It may seem like a large demand to implement a number of different smart home systems, but all of these systems have capabilities that some homeowners never thought were possible. Smart home automation systems will only get more advanced, so if you start utilizing these features now, you will be in a better position for the future. Carefully consider how much easier some of these systems will make it for the people residing in your home.

Moving into a new home is always an exciting adventure, but it can also be overwhelming at times. Investing in eco-friendly ways to save money and energy will not only help homeowners live a more sustainable lifestyle, but can help save the earth. We only have so much time left, let’s try and make a difference while creating a home atmosphere that is positive and refreshing.

How Urban Planners Integrate Alternative Energy Into Architecture

How Urban Planners Integrate Alternative Energy Into Architecture

As global temperatures continue to rise and extreme weather events increase in frequency, the need for sustainable solutions has never been more apparent. Human activities are largely responsible for climate change, and urban areas are adversely affected. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the effects of climate change may be amplified within the world’s cities, including rising temperatures.

More people are living in urban areas than ever before — the United Nations estimates that 68% of the global population will live in cities by 2050. Although various sustainability initiatives exist to combat the effects of climate change in an increasingly urbanized world, urban planning must now incorporate sustainable solutions into every design to reduce humanity’s dependence on fossil fuels.

Even as sustainability sits at the forefront of modern architectural trends, developing alternative energy solutions isn’t without its challenges. For example, not every city is ideally situated for harnessing solar power due to atmospheric conditions that limit annual sunshine. The good news is that solar energy is just one of the various forms of alternative energy that can be utilized by urban planners in sustainable building designs.

Combating the Effects of Climate Change

Those involved with sustainable urban development must consider such factors as the effects of climate change, various costs associated with alternative energy systems, local regulations and ordinances, and more. Since the end of 2020, for example, all newly constructed buildings in the European Union (EU) are required to incorporate sustainable designs to achieve “nearly zero” energy usage. Solar energy is at the forefront of their efforts.

However, many of the global leaders in alternative energy, including Sweden and Germany, aren’t necessarily the world’s sunniest nations. For its part, Denmark sources more than 50% of its national electricity needs from alternative sources, primarily sun and wind.

The summer months, when sunshine is abundant and shines for upwards of 17 hours per day, are prime conditions for harnessing solar energy. Conversely, Denmark only gets around 8 hours of sunlight daily throughout the winter, and wind energy helps bridge the gaps in terms of national energy needs. The country’s impressive alternative energy numbers wouldn’t be possible without mindful designs from urban planners with a deep understanding of local climatic conditions.

In those areas like Denmark, where solar energy may not be the most reliable choice year-round, urban planners may need to think outside the box. To determine the most cost-effective alternative energy source for a particular area, climate and weather considerations are just as crucial as estimated energy usage. And indeed the smallest details shouldn’t be overlooked within sustainable design plans – even the most advanced solar and/or wind energy systems can be quickly drained by inefficient devices such as air conditioning units and water heaters.

Sustainability and Urban Planning

To successfully design and maintain sustainable architecture that will last into the future essentially hinges on the drastically changing global climate. Sustainable buildings can vary significantly, and popular green building designs often incorporate the natural landscape and strive for nearly zero waste. Earthships, for example, commonly seen in the southwestern U.S., are often built partially into the earth and rely completely on alternative energy from the sun and wind.

Urban planning on a city-wide level, however, is much more complex than that of Earthships, which are primarily single-family homes, located off-grid. Affordability is also a key part of the equation for urban planners and city leaders alike in regards to sustainable building design. The rising price of lumber, for instance, is both another by-product of climate change and a huge consideration in the design process. There are also building and permit costs to consider, as well as a possible labor shortage stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Future of Green Building Design

Climate change and urbanization are intrinsically linked, and the environmental impact of urban living is substantial. For large metro areas to continue to sustain an increasing population while also actively reducing emissions, change must come from the same source: cities themselves. When building sustainable neighborhoods, from apartment complexes to community spaces, alternative energy has become an integral part of the solution.

In terms of architecture for all, it’s important to note that the benefits of sustainable building design span well beyond reduced emissions. Urban planners can also do their part to foster healthier and happier communities via the various elements of sustainable design. Integrated alternative energy systems, dedicated bike lanes, and linked sidewalks can help revitalize a community while also reducing harmful pollutants.

By incorporating alternative energy into design plans, urban planners thus have a unique opportunity to improve the quality of life for countless global citizens. As the effects of climate change and increasing temperatures become even more pronounced, we must look for actionable solutions. Within cities, integrating alternative energy, whether harnessed from the sun, wind, or water, into future city planning represents a massive step towards improved climate and public health.

 

Amanda Winstead is a writer from the Portland area with a background in communications and a passion for telling stories. Along with writing she enjoys traveling, reading, working out, and going to concerts. If you want to follow her writing journey, or even just say hi you can find her on Twitter.

Zero Energy Homes Are Great, But Let’s Make Them Better — Zero 2.0

Zero Energy Homes Are Great, But Let’s Make Them Better — Zero 2.0

By Joe Emerson and Bruce Sullivan 

 

The Zero Energy Project is a strong advocate for and supporter of net zero homes (and buildings) and has been for more than a decade. These super green homes are a huge step forward on the path to zero carbon and healthy living. The most powerful attribute of net zero homes, unlike many green home concepts, is that zero is quantifiable through energy modeling and/or tracking energy bills. As the concept of zero evolves, moving to the next iteration of these homes — Zero 2.0 — will be central to ensuring that we positively address the climate disruption, pollution, and financial challenges of the 21st century. Zero 2.0 must reduce the overall carbon impact of homes and buildings to zero while enhancing occupants’ health, security, resilience, and financial stability. Zero 2.0 is both a vision for the future of buildings and a roadmap that we must start implementing immediately. 

Challenges and Upgrades for Net Zero Homes 

To ensure that net zero homes truly get us on the path to zero carbon and zero negative impacts, they must more effectively address several challenges that faced the first generation of zero energy homes. Here are those challenges and the innovations needed to reach Zero 2.0. 

 

#1 The Use of Natural Gas. Using fossil methane gas for space heating, cooking, and water heating can no longer be an option if we are to prevent the worst of global warming. Zero 2.0 homes and buildings must be all electric. If electric grids source 100% renewable energy, then all-electric, zero energy ready homes will then be net zero, and existing zero energy homes can produce excess renewable energy to contribute power to electric vehicles, batteries, and the grid. 

 

#2 The Disconnect between Solar Production and Home Energy Use. Solar electric panels produce the most power around midday, even though the homes they power consume the most power in late afternoon and evening — creating a disconnect between supply and demand. Zero 2.0 must include smart home controls that integrate with a smart grid, operating dishwashers, laundry, water heaters, and car chargers during times most advantageous for grid stability and low retail pricing. As battery prices come down, Zero 2.0 must include sufficient on-site energy storage to manage appliances’ energy use in a demand-response program to even out energy loads as grids use more renewables.  

 

#3 Most Solar Systems Provide No Power During Outages. Most grid-tied solar electric systems cannot draw on their own solar production during power outages, even when solar power is abundant. As currently configured, they do not enhance resiliency as extreme climate events become more common. Zero 2.0 must include battery back-up for critical survival needs.  

 

#4 Some Zero Energy Homes Rely Too Heavily on Solar. With the price of solar panels dropping, some homes employ only minimal energy-efficiency measures, such as improved insulation, air sealing, and advanced windows. When climate-related emergencies result in power outages that disable solar systems, leaky uninsulated homes will not weather emergencies as well. Zero 2.0 must be designed to the highest efficiency standards. Making all homes as energy-efficient as possible will keep healthy temperatures for days during a power outage. This is especially true for homes without solar potential that need to subscribe to off-site renewable energy.  

 

#5 Most Zero Energy Homes Ignore Transportation and Other Home Energy Uses. Few zero energy homes are designed or equipped to generate enough renewable energy production to supply energy for transportation, yard and garden equipment, and possible luxury items like a hot tub, pool, or sauna. Zero 2.0 must be designed and equipped for 100% zero energy living. This means installing sufficient solar collectors to power all energy use associated with the building, including charging electric vehicles. To increase the area available for solar production, use solar panels to cover patios and parking areas. Alternatively, you can purchase community solar or use renewable energy purchase programs. 

 

#6 Most Zero Energy Homes Do Not Account for Embodied Carbon. Zero energy homes are currently defined by operational energy and do not take into account embodied greenhouse gas emissions from materials, construction, appliance refrigerants, and more. Zero 2.0 must use carbon accounting software and low GWP refrigerants. The design-build team should use a carbon accounting software program to minimize embodied carbon in construction materials and focus on the least carbon intensive and least expensive methods for getting to zero carbon by using energy modeling. All heat pump equipment, including mini-splits, heat pump water heaters, refrigerators, and freezers should use the latest low-GWP refrigerants, such as hydrofluoroolefin (HFO).  

 

#7 Most Zero Energy Homes Are Not Designed for Resilience in Extreme Climate Events. They do not directly address local climate threats to home safety and health from extreme climate events, such as wildfire, wind, and floods. Zero 2.0 must design for resiliency in the face of the most likely local pollution and climate threats. For fire, use fire resistant materials and landscaping. For smoke and air pollution, specify high levels of air tightness and controlled ventilation, and use HEPA or MERV-16 filters integrated to an ERV and air purification system. For floods, specify appropriate foundation height, water resistance, and ventilation, For wind and earthquakes, specify structural integrity. For water shortages, use low water-use showers and faucets, drip irrigation, reuse of greywater, and if appropriate, rainwater harvesting roofs with cisterns. 

  

#8 Most Zero Energy Homes Do Not Provide the Highest Standards of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Management. These homes do not always address health threats from local environmental pollution, wildfire smoke, gas appliances, and the use of off-gassing materials during construction. Zero 2.0 must design and build to the highest IAQ standards. New homes must include features and equipment that meet or exceed advanced indoor air quality standards, such as non-toxic materials, high levels of air tightness, and HEPA or MERV-16 filters integrated into the air purification and ERV/HRV system. Go all electric, with no gas heating, water heating, or appliances, to eliminate pollutants released indoors from fossil fuel burning appliances. 

 

Zero 2.0 Starts Now 

In order to meet the extraordinary climate and environmental challenges of the 21st century, these eight upgrades to Zero 2.0 must be steadily integrated into the definition, planning, and implementation of zero. With net zero energy use, zero carbon footprint, and zero health impact, designing and building these resilient Zero 2.0 homes will ensure that the housing industry is doing all it can to get us on the path to zero carbon, zero health impact, and zero risk homes — but to be effective, these upgrades must be started now. 

 

Learn more: 

Zero Energy Project

EEBA

How Builders Can Contribute to Zero-Energy Efforts

How Builders Can Contribute to Zero-Energy Efforts

With so many energy efficient innovations underway in the field of construction, it’s now easier than ever for builders to contribute to zero-energy efforts. In fact, they must recognize the significance of sustainability and how it impacts the future of their business.

After all, residential and commercial sectors now consume around 40% of the nation’s fossil fuel resources. Additionally, growing concerns regarding climate change and the future of building materials have resulted in a shift toward zero-energy efforts in the construction industry.

But why are these sustainability ventures important and what benefit do they offer to builders themselves? Follow along to learn more about how builders can contribute to a zero-energy lifestyle while reaping the benefits.

What Is Zero Energy & Why Is It Important?

Zero-energy buildings are structures that don’t consume more energy than they produce. In other words, as defined by the International Living Future Institute, “one hundred percent of the project’s energy needs [are] supplied by on-site renewable energy on a net annual basis.”

You may be wondering how that’s possible. But this radical solution is already fast on its way to reducing our carbon footprint and changing the planet. While still an ambitious project, each year it becomes more and more affordable for everyday homeowners and business owners to achieve their zero energy goals.

Regulatory oversight from state and federal governments means homeowners are slowly moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle. Commercial business owners, on the other hand, are driven by profit incentives and corporate sustainability goals to reach zero-energy status.

Net-zero-energy status has the power to shift the tides of climate change. If all new constructions were built to a net-zero standard and existing structures retrofitted to meet net-zero specifications, our nationwide carbon footprint would be reduced by nearly 40%. That would represent an overwhelming win in the fight against climate change.

Benefits for Builders

Homeowners aren’t the only ones who benefit from net-zero buildings. As a builder, you may be wondering what personal benefits zero-energy efforts can offer you. Besides the massive impact carbon neutrality would have on society as a whole, there are tons of reasons why builders should contribute to the movement.

Financial Returns 

If it’s money that motivates you, it’s time to do your research on sustainability and building! Energy conservation systems are just some of the surprising features that add value to your home. That’s why investing in net-zero efforts in the construction industry pays off big in the long-term, whether it’s for your own house or those you’re building. Buyers are more likely to pay a higher price for a home with modern, energy-efficient upgrades.

Helping Combat Climate Change 

This one should go without saying, but constructing net-zero buildings goes a long way toward fighting global climate change. Everyone must do their part, and builders are in the unique position of being able to contribute to the energy efficiency of homes everywhere. Not to mention you’ll feel good about the work you’re performing and its potential to benefit the planet.

Being on the Cutting-Edge of Building Technology 

It’s important to stay up to date on all the latest technological developments in the building industry, and most of these innovations are taking place in the clean energy field. When you design homes for the future, you show an astute awareness of industry trends and do your part to enact positive change. You and your clients will be all the better for this initiative years down the line. Invest in the future by participating in this massive shift in the building industry now.

 

How to Contribute to Zero-Energy Homes

The biggest way builders can contribute to zero-energy homes is by simply making structures as energy-independent as possible. There are a variety of ways to achieve this goal, and some of the most widely-used techniques include:

  • Installing solar panels.
  • Using energy-efficient HVAC systems and appliances, such as induction cooktops.
  • Making sure the structure is airtight.
  • Performing all construction with non-toxic materials and finishings.
  • Using advanced fresh air systems.
  • Making use of solar design principles.
  • Integrating LED lighting.
  • Maximizing efficiency of water systems.

You may have such a knack for energy-independent building that you become a zero-energy professional. As a builder, that means you’ve developed the necessary skills and competencies to design energy-efficient home packages for your clients’ individual needs.

 

Reap the Benefits of Zero-Energy Construction

No matter your reasons for getting into the net-zero construction field, chances are you’ll never want to leave. The industry offers plenty of opportunities for career advancement as technologies progress and clean building practices become more accessible. Do your research to learn about how to cost-effectively build zero-energy homes, and you’ll be on the road to success in no time at all!

 

Amanda Winstead is a writer from the Portland area with a background in communications and a passion for telling stories. Along with writing she enjoys traveling, reading, working out, and going to concerts. If you want to follow her writing journey, or even just say hi you can find her on Twitter.

3 Steps for Building Carbon Neutral Houses

3 Steps for Building Carbon Neutral Houses

The world has been focused for years on designing environmentally safe cars, but what about homes? We spend more of our lives in our houses than in our cars, especially since the pandemic. Shouldn’t we focus on making them as healthy and environmentally friendly as, say, a Tesla?

Yes, we should—and many builders already are. I know because I am one of them, and I represent thousands of other green builders as CEO of the Energy and Environmental Building Alliance (EEBA). Our movement has been around for more than three decades, but today it is gathering steam—and evolving.

Our primary focus thus far has been on energy efficiency. Our work, bolstered by federal programs like ENERGY STAR and the Department of Energy’s Zero Energy Ready Home Program, has helped catalyze the adoption of energy-efficient tech like solar panels, electric appliances, and better forms of insulation, to name just a few. Still, too many traditional homebuilders refuse to utilize these efficient techniques.

Ultimately, however, energy efficiency is a means to an end, with the end being reducing the carbon footprint of our homes. Focusing primarily on energy efficiency may not be the best way to shrink our carbon footprint, because so much of a house’s environmental impact comes from building materials such as concrete, steel, and fiberglass, which throw off massive amounts of carbon when produced. Further, many localities are transitioning energy grids to electric power, which lessens the burden on homebuilders (and homeowners) to use alternative energy sources.

Don’t get me wrong, energy efficiency will always be a central pursuit for green builders. But increasingly, it isn’t enough. So what if homebuilders begin by focusing on the “end” of carbon reduction? How might our means of achieving it change?

It’s a question that green builders want to answer, and we’re committed to working with policymakers, academics, environmental champions, and every other stakeholder to figure it out. This task is urgent now more than ever, as builders scramble to meet spiking demand for new and affordable housing. Many houses built today will stand for 100 years or more (much longer than the eight-year average for cars), so the stakes are high for our planet and for human health.

I believe there are three steps that must be taken to put carbon reduction front and center in the home building marketplace.

1.    Create a standard benchmark for evaluating the carbon footprint of houses

The practice of measuring the carbon impact of homes is known as carbon footprinting, and it’s easier said than done. There are many factors to consider. Do we include the lawn in the calculation? How about the concrete driveway or septic tank? Do we factor in the extraction and production of the building materials, or only their impact once the home is built?

The way we answer these questions matters less than the fact that we answer them. Agreeing on a standard benchmark for carbon footprinting, regardless of what it includes, will give us a scoreboard for measuring progress and evaluating the effectiveness of green building efforts. It will also empower homebuyers to shop and compare houses on environmental merit.

Some cities have recently passed measures to require carbon footprinting of homes. But without a benchmark, builders who only care about bottom lines will find ways to cut corners and cheat measurements. That’s why we at EEBA, and others at like-minded organizations such as the Endeavor Center and Natural Resources Canada, are exploring ways to create a calculator for carbon footprinting. We invite all stakeholders to join us in the effort.

2.    Establish a carbon offset market for residential homes

Once we determine the carbon footprint of a home, what do we do about it? The answer lies in carbon offsetting.

Here’s how it works. If I built a house with a 100-ton carbon footprint, I could effectively erase that footprint by going to a carbon market and funding 100 tons worth of carbon reduction. This might mean investing in methane recapture, a wind farm, or planting trees. The current price of a carbon offset is around $60 per ton, meaning I could write a check for $6,000 and offset the footprint of the house I built.

So far, carbon trading for residential homes is unheard of. But as more cities enact climate action plans that require footprinting, interest in offsetting will increase. Just as green builders want to develop a standardized calculator for carbon footprinting, we want to join with others in normalizing carbon offsetting for homes. The health of our planet and our families is worth every penny. 

3.    Establish realistic rules for green homebuilding on the federal, state, and local levels

Today, government programs and regulations regarding environmental building are few and far between. Many states do not even have statewide building codes, which leaves it up to each municipality to set its own rules. Localities that choose to enact climate action plans often don’t know where to begin, and their efforts fall prey to lobbying from well-intentioned groups that don’t understand the costs and considerations of homebuilding. The result is either a total absence of rules, or a patchwork of unrealistic and hard-to-follow regulations.

Green builders are eager to pull up a chair and join these discussions. We want to provide guidance that can help avoid the situation we’ve seen in Fort Collins, Colorado, where even the greenest builder in America (there is one, and I know him) can’t build houses because the rules aren’t feasible. That’s why we’re in the process of establishing a board of advisors to work with cities on designing effective environmental building standards.

This effort has implications not just for the environment, but for affordable housing. As demand grows for single-family homes, many consumers are priced out of the market.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can have it all. We can have healthy and sustainable homes that are entirely affordable for many or even most families. That is our goal as green builders: to build affordable, net-zero, carbon-neutral houses. We know many others share our passion, including a new generation of home builders, and we hope they’ll join our movement.

Currently, our Inventory of Zero Energy Homes and the UN global registry of carbon-neutral buildings list not one residential home in the United States. In five years, they could list thousands. But that will depend on what we do next—and on who steps up to join us.

 

Originally published on Entrepreneur.com

Aaron Smith is the CEO of EEBA and Board Treasurer of Team Zero.

Ann Arbor Passive House Utilizes Mitsubishi Electric

Ann Arbor Passive House Utilizes Mitsubishi Electric

When building their new high-performance home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Eric and Jo Ann faced the integral challenge of constructing a house that not only ensured energy efficiency but was able to do so in the region’s cold winter temperatures.  

With the help of architect Michael Klement, AIA, NCARB, AIBD, CPHC from Architectural Resources, the homeowners selected a Mitsubishi Electric mini-split heat pump system for its versatility and scaled-down size. 

Based on the region’s climate, their heating and cooling system selection was one of the most important features the homeowners needed to consider. Mitsubishi Electric’s Hyper-Heating INVERTER® (H2i®) technology presented the perfect solution to withstand the below-freezing temperatures while maintaining high-performance home standards for any season. 

“Hyper-heating technology allows the unit to extract heat at lower temperatures than most units can go to,” said the installing contractor Andy Bobo, owner, CMR Mechanical. The team installed a mix of ducted and ductless equipment with 2 MSZ Wall-Mounted Indoor Units and 2 SEZ Horizontal-Ducted Indoor Units. 

“The nice thing about Mitsubishi Electric is that people ask for it by name. They’re not just asking for a ductless unit specifically; they’re asking for a Mitsubishi Electric ductless unit,” Bobo added.  

Since completion, the Ann Arbor Passive House has been officially verified by energy rater Building Efficiency Resources (BER). 

“The home attained a HERS Index® score of 14, is ENERGY STAR® CertifiedEPA Indoor airPLUS certified and is projected to meet DOE Zero Energy Ready Home and Passive House Institute US (PHIUS+) status,” said Chris McTaggart, co-owner, BER. 

The project team also plans to add solar panels to the home in an effort to increase energy efficiency and offset total energy use.  

“We are very, very pleased with how the house turned out,” said Eric. “This home is an opportunity to lead by example and it’s already exceeding our expectations.” 

 

Learn more about the Ann Arbor Passive House here. Check out Mitsubishi Electric’s website for more information.

The Bunker House of Tofte, Minnesota.

The Bunker House of Tofte, Minnesota.

*Adapted from a BASF case study .

Located in Tofte, Minnesota, the Bunker House is a single-family high-performance home. This 3,120 sq. ft space was completed in August of 2020 and built by Taiga Design Build. The Bunker House was constructed with structural insulated panels (SIPs) [manufactured by Energy Panel Structures] to reap the benefits of a quicker build, ease of installation, air tightness, lower utility costs, and needing less sealing than conventional framing. As the home sits on Lake Superior’s North Shore, energy efficiency was an important factor.

SIP wall thickness and core material: 6″ Neopor    R30
SIP roof thickness and core material: 10″ Neopor R-50

Additionally, to being constructed with SIPs, the house is supported by large exterior glu-lam beams, has large Southern windows for natural heating in the winter, and large trees which allow extra cooling in the summer. It’s HVAC system is consisted of Dual fuel, in-floor, radiant heat. The primary heat source for the hydronic fluid is an interruptible Slant Fin Monitron electric boiler (100% efficient). The secondary source is a Navien propane boiler (95% efficient) which also serves as a secondary source of domestic hot water. EcoTech air exchanger provides outside air.

HERS Index: Estimated 28

Blower door test results: 0.89 ACH50

This SIPs high-performance home is set to weather the harsh north winds well. Surrounded with breathtaking views, it features below ground wine storage and a large walk out deck from the kitchen.

Meet the Next Generation of Insulation

BASF Neopor Plus GPS a graphite polystyrene (GPS) rigid foam insulation that gives maximum efficiency, cost-effectiveness and sustainability on construction projects. Grey Neopor Plus GPS is comprised of many small pockets of air within a polymer matrix containing graphite. The graphite reflects radiant heat energy like a mirror, increasing the material’s resistance to the flow of heat, or R-value.

Learn more about this smart insulation here.

Bill Gates’ Path to Zero Carbon by 2050

Bill Gates’ Path to Zero Carbon by 2050

*adapted from a Zero Energy Project article by Joe Emerson

 

In his new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, Bill Gates identifies the need for the world to get to Zero Carbon by 2050 and the consequences to the global population if we do not. He uses Zero to quantify and provide a tool for measuring the effectiveness of various technologies for getting us there. Currently, the world emits 51 billion tons of greenhouse gases per year, and we need to get to Zero by 2050. The steps are measurable. The goal is ambitious but achievable. It will not be easy!

THE GREEN PREMIUM

Gates uses the idea of the “green premium” to describe the cost to replace an existing carbon-emitting technology with a zero-carbon technology that performs the same function. The green premium can be low or even negative for many energy conservation measures and some renewable energy sources because these cost less than the current practices. The green premium can be high for other technologies in which the low-carbon alternatives are undeveloped and technically complex. Gates suggests that technologies with a high green premium need significant funding for research and development with the goal of bringing down prices so they can be implemented worldwide before 2050.

THE “EASY” TASKS

Several significant zero-carbon technologies with a low “green premium” are poised for widespread acceptance, such as electric vehicles, solar and wind power, and heat pumps. Gates urges us to electrify everything we can and to move forward with a renewable smart grid. Gates emphasizes that we are not implementing the easier stuff at anywhere near the scale needed. “We should be building out renewables 5 to 10 times faster.”

THE “HARD” TASKS

Gates describes the more challenging technological breakthroughs that we will need to implement to get to zero, including:

  • making zero-carbon cement, steel, and plastics
  • formulating aviation, shipping, and long-haul trucking fuels
  • implementing climate positive agriculture practices
  • building integrated super smart grids
  • handling the intermittency (both daily and seasonal) problem posed by renewable power generation.

For that, he calls for research into improved battery storage, clean hydrogen, and small-scale, safe, inexpensive nuclear power. To get transportation fuels to zero, he advocates for more research and development on clean hydrogen and low-carbon biofuels. And he stresses the need for more research into zero-carbon steel, concrete, and plastics to make them price competitive with existing materials.

GETTING TO ZERO BY 2030 OR 2050?

Gates believes that a 2030 target to reach zero carbon is an unrealistic deadline and that shifting to natural gas to reduce carbon by then is a dead end. We should develop and implement solutions that get us to zero even though it may take more time. While we are doing the crucial research on the hard tasks, we need to go full throttle with implementing the easier ones. To do that, we need to lower the green premium across the board.

LOWERING GREEN PREMIUMS

Gates points out that the price differential between electric vehicles and gas-fueled vehicles will disappear by 2030 due to increased scale of production and ongoing innovation. He indicates that the greater fuel savings and lower maintenance costs of electric cars already brings the green premium very close to zero. This downward curve that is happening with EVs is also happening with solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries, as well as energy-efficient heat pumps and induction stovetops. Lowering the green premium for these technologies could be as simple as creating an aggressive nationwide program of education, marketing, and financial incentives.

ZERO ENERGY HOMES AND BUILDINGS

Here are some suggestions for building professionals to help lower green premiums. These are not specified by Gates, but are in line with what he believes is needed. Over the next 10 years, we can immediately use a wide variety of easy off-the-shelf technologies, such as heat pumps, solar panels, induction stove topselectric vehicle chargers, advanced air sealingsuper insulation, and high-efficiency factory homes. These technologies can best be implemented by constructing all-electric zero energy or zero energy ready homes and buildings, with the goal that all new construction be zero energy by 2030.

A BREATH OF FRESH AIR, A COLD BATH, AND A COMPREHENSIVE PLAN

Bill Gates’ path to zero is a breath of fresh air because it is based on science and economic realities. At the same time, it feels like a cold shower because the task is complex. He doesn’t greenwash the challenges, but rather, quantifies their complexities, asks the hard questions, and puts a price tag on the solutions. He challenges us to quantify the effectiveness and costs of the various strategies for getting from 51 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year to zero.

His plan for getting to zero carbon by 2050 calls on citizens, consumers, corporations, and governments to take appropriate actions. As a businessman and philanthropist, he stresses the need for zero carbon technologies to become more affordable than current ones, so they will be more accessible worldwide. Bill Gates’ book should be in the hands of every citizen. It is a roadmap we all must follow together.

 

Joe Emerson is an article author at Zero Energy Project.

Newly built home in Seattle goes beyond Net Zero

Newly built home in Seattle goes beyond Net Zero

View in the Showcase of High Performance Homes

*adapted from a Dwell Development LLC article.

SEATTLE, WA (April 2021) – Residential developer, Dwell Development LLC, continues to push the envelope of sustainable design and green construction in the Pacific Northwest with the completion of their Net-Positive Energy and Built Green 5-Star residential building certification programs. 

From design innovation to construction, Dwell takes an integrative approach to building some of the world’s most energy efficient homes. Positive Energy Homes are zero energy homes that are so efficient they produce more energy on an annual basis than they consume, leaving homeowners with extra energy to use in other ways such as powering electronics or even electric cars.  

Positive energy homes represent a whole new level of performance with rigorous requirements that ensure outstanding levels of energy savings, comfort, health, and durability. In order to meet these requirements, the home is equipped with a 14.25kW roof top array of solar panels that produces a Home Energy Rating System Index (HERS) rating of -2. 

“The key to zero and positive energy home building is to properly insulate and seal the home so heat and air are not lost through cracks in the building envelope,” says Anthony Maschmedt, Dwell Development owner.  

Demonstrating Dwell Development’s commitment to new achievements in green building, this is Dwell’s most energy-efficient home to date since completing Seattle’s first Emerald Star home in 2014.  

Dwell Development’s holistic approach to sustainable building helps homeowners conserve resources and cut costs while also setting the bar high for other residential developers. Net-positive homes are the next step for sustainable building, and with Dwell Development leading the way, positive energy homes will become the standard. 

 

About Dwell Development LLC

Dwell Development is founded in the belief that sustainable, efficient design can create a better tomorrow. Dwell has specialized in the design+build of high-performance, modern homes throughout Seattle and the surrounding areas. Each home is built to last, and designed with maximum comfort, urban livability, and health in mind. As leading experts in the field, Dwell Development constantly working towards the advancement and growth of sustainable design practices. Dwell strives towards creating the most energy-efficient homes in the world.

Learn more: www.dwelldevelopment.com

An examination of diversity in sustainable industries after Derek Chauvin’s conviction

An examination of diversity in sustainable industries after Derek Chauvin’s conviction

Last week, former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering 46-year-old George Floyd in Minneapolis. After 11 months of unrest and apprehension following George Floyd’s tragic death, we breathe a sigh of relief as jury member after jury member found Chauvin guilty of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

For our Minneapolis-based EEBA team, this death and subsequent case hit very close to home. As communities struggle with uncertainty, it has become increasingly important to actively face the lack of diversity in our industry.

There is no question that the conviction of Derek Chauvin brings a sense of justice for all those affected by this case. However, this is only a small step in the right direction.

The case has sparked widespread calls to action to examine the deeply rooted systemic racism in this country, especially those pertaining to Black people.

We must continue looking into how the lack of diversity exists in every industry, and the actions we can take to address these crucial issues.

In the world of sustainability and green building, it is vital that we consider how different communities have disproportionate access to sustainable resources. In many areas, renewable energy sources are virtually nonexistent and sustainable homes are simply unaffordable.

There is no question that there is diversity within the construction sector, but we still have work to do in expanding opportunities for members of marginalized groups to enter the sustainable building and education industries.

Sustainable living is not determined solely by fuel types and building materials, it also requires an equitable distribution of resources.

This is exactly Team zero’s mission. We want to do everything we can to provide the necessary resources to bring more students of color, women, and veterans in transition to join the sustainable building community. Through the EEBA TeamZero NextGen Scholarship Program, we can offer these opportunities to a larger population. We welcome you to support this program by donating here.

We at Team Zero and EEBA are always looking to expand our community and create connections to help further this mission. Please reach out to us with interests, questions, and/or discussions.