Thursday, December 31, 2009

Getting to Zero: Aspiring to the Zero Energy Home

Going into the new year I'm naturally in a reflective mood. What can I do to impact the greater world as we head into the unknown promise and potential of a new year? Sharing ideas which matter is a place to start!

What if more Zero Energy Homes became more prevalent in the coming year? What's a Zero Energy Home you ask? It is a home which produces the same or more energy than it uses over the course of a year. The specific design and make up of the Zero Energy Home adapts to its regional and micro-climate, siting and the needs and budget of individual homeowners. There is no single solution but rather a common approach to design which starts with shifting behaviors and motivations of all those involved.

A Zero Energy Home is valuable for a number of reasons. It can be an extremely comfortable, healthy and pleasant place to live. It can be carbon-neutral and good for the environment. It also can deliver future energy cost predictability by committing to upfront investments in a super-insulated building envelope, high performance internal heating / cooling systems, renewable energy sources, energy star appliances, lighting and healthy interior materials/ furnishings. As we head into the new year we don't know what our energy costs will be going forward but know intuitively they will continue to escalate with fossil fuel scarcity and growing demand. (See IHS Data, DOE calculator). There will be no magic energy solution I believe. Just hard slogging...

Thus, Zero Energy Homes can form part of the solution going forward, reshaping how we think about our homes into long-term investments which steady-state our energy costs into the future. Their lighter footprint on the earth and in our communities can only be an asset to strengthening them.

How and where does one start?

Read as much as you can: Visit informative web-sites such as....
Hire and Organize a Great Integrated Design Team: Contact your local American Institute of Architects (AIA) and Homebuilder's Organizations and look for standout professionals who have experience designing and building low-energy use and/or zero energy homes. They can assist you in early stages of site selection, construction strategies and project delivery methods which best adapt to your needs, budget and schedule. Depending on your project's complexity and your goals your Architect may suggest hiring an Energy Consultant and other specialized sub-consultants/ team-mates to really look at your needs and help optimize building envelope, heating-cooling systems, lighting, building controls and interior design.

Be Prepared to Learn and Grow Over the Course of Your Project: It's a journey with lots of learning along the way and exposure to new ideas and concepts. With the right team, it will be an enjoyable and never dull experience!

Investing in the Future: Remember, you're doing something which will benefit generations to come by looking beyond the present!

Happy New Year!

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