Sunday, June 21, 2009

Zero Energy Homes Within Reach


A recurring theme in this blog is that the answers to many of our energy problems have already been solved. Making changes, however, to our building practices, transportation systems, public utility regulations, and legal infrastructure in order to implement proven energy-saving strategies is a daunting challenge at multiple levels.

A recent post on the TerraPass site by Adam Stein illustrates this point. Steins writes about the latest generation Passive Houses that rely on airtight design, sophisticated ventilation systems, and thick insulation to create a living space that consumes 90 percent less energy than a typical home. Add some supplementary power from a renewable source and you have what is essentially a Zero Energy Home.

One builder that Stein showcases, Postgreen, has applied innovative building techniques to the equation, resulting in a LEED Platinum home being built in Philadelphia with total construction costs of $100,000.

While their urban dwelling design style might not suit everyone's taste, it's clear that a zero energy home can be extremely affordable, as well as a way to dramatically lower a family's carbon footprint. These kinds of technologies should be springing up all over the country, wherever buildings--residential or commercial--are being constructed. Why they are not is more a matter of entrenched interests and a business-as-usual mindset than any practical considerations.