HouseZero’s Historic Building Renovation Provides Model For Efficient Design

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Geothermal heating, solar panels, and automatic windows allow a century-old house in Massachusetts to run on almost no energy

May 23, 2017

Photo: Snøhetta

Geothermal heating, solar panels, and automatic windows allow a century-old house in Massachusetts to run on almost no energy.

Fast Company reports that The Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities paired up with the architecture firm Snøhetta to renovate a 1920s-era home. Since the building is a historic landmark, the team couldn’t alter the outside, but they got creative in optimising its energy use.

The house needs no electric light during the day, and any energy use can be covered by rooftop solar panels. A ventilation system keeps the building cool or warm. A geothermal system provides heat on the coldest days, and a solar vent draws air up from the cool basement to keep the building ventilated. Windows open and close automatically throughout the day and night, as the house adjusts to the proper temperature. The building’s performance will be measured through a network of sensors.

Researchers intend the building to serve as a model for homeowners who want to make similar energy-efficient upgrades to their homes.

For homeowners, making similar retrofits would save money–collectively, U.S. property owners spend more than $230 billion a year heating, cooling, and powering homes. The retrofits could also curb a major source of climate pollution. While it’s easier to make newly built houses ultra-efficient, most homes in the U.S. already exist–and buildings account for nearly 40% of carbon emissions in the country, more than any other sector.

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