New net-zero Solar Farmhouse from Deltec generates all its own energy

January 24, 2017 by  
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In these uncertain times of erratic weather and changing climate patterns, net-zero energy (or NZE) is quickly becoming the gold standard in green building. If you can generate all of your own energy on site, you never need to rely on the grid or worry about energy bills. The North Carolina prefab builders at Deltec launched a line of affordable net-zero energy homes last year to great fanfare from off-grid buffs around the U.S. Now we’re thrilled to see them introduce a brand new design to this collection; a charming, classically-styled Solar Farmhouse with all of the old-fashioned curb appeal, plus the futuristic technology that makes this home achieve net-zero energy.

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New net-zero Solar Farmhouse from Deltec generates all its own energy

Colorado man builds state’s most energy efficient house

January 17, 2017 by  
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Passive House is a globally-recognized building design technique that promises huge cuts in energy use for any kind of building in any climate. In a nutshell, the Passive House Design strategy relies on airtight buildings, super insulation, thermal mass and passive solar design. As a former Inhabitat contributor, I was keen to put Passive House design to the test in the Colorado Rockies, where the winters can be brutal and living off-grid comes with a tiny energy budget. The house I ended up building definitely lives up to its promises in terms of energy conservation, but the biggest surprise is how comfortable it is. Read on as I tell my story about how I came to build Colorado’s most energy-efficient house. After years of building, research, and writing about green design, I became fascinated with the concept of Passive House design, which was originally pioneered in Germany. In Europe, hundreds of buildings have been built to consume 90 percent less energy than their neighbors, using super tight insulation and passive solar design, and the trend is gradually picking up in the US as well. Reporting for Inhabitat, I visited a Passive House by NEEDBASED in New Mexico, and was amazed how well adapted it is to a climate that is both very cold and full of sunshine. The visit convinced me Passive House design is the state-of-the-art tool for building design, and that I wanted to apply it for my own home. Passive House has been both celebrated and spurned for its radical departure from normal building techniques. While in Europe it is catching on quickly , and is even being incorporated into the code from New York City to Vancouver BC, it is still considered exotic to many designers and builders. From the thick walls, triple pane windows, and sophisticated fresh air system, to the extensive energy calculations, Passive House design leaves little to chance and the certification process can be arduous. Related: How to design a passive house off-grid, and without foam After having an erratic and disappointing experience trying to certify with the US based group Passive House Institute US (PHIUS), I ultimately chose to certify with the Passive House Institute (PHI) in Germany. One of the main issues when doing energy modeling is avoiding bad inputs. As I looked closely at the critical climate data that we were building, it turned out to be way out of whack. PHIUS was in the process of introducing a more climate dependent certification scheme, and building to such a careful system using bad data left a sour taste in my mouth. Other issues kept coming up and it was time to change the approach. The process of certification with PHI though the Passive House Academy took some time but went relatively smoothly. To my surprise, we beat the energy threshold by almost two times. This turned out to be great news as the home is only powered by solar electricity and has a small propane hydronic heating system. The home’s main heating source is the sun, followed by the “waste” heat of the occupants and appliances, and then finally a small hydronic heating loop in the wall and at the Heat Recovery Ventilation system. The home has been occupied for a year, and while it uses practically no energy for heating, the real take away is how comfortable it is. The house tends to naturally hover between 67 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit without heating or cooling. I use the heating system sparingly, so during a recent cold spell, when exterior temperatures reached -10 degrees, I let the house get down to 62 degrees. After taking a shower, I was surprised that it did not feel chilly like in most houses. Why? What I learned in high school physics class paid off. The heavily insulated building envelope reduces heat loss through conduction, but it turns out that ambient air temperature is not the only reason we feel comfortable or not. With such a tight and well-insulated envelope there is neither cold air coming in nor interior air circulating by cooling convection. But what really makes the difference is the radiantly neutral surfaces, especially the triple pane glass. My bare (and damp) skin does not bleed heat via radiation to cold surfaces, which in turn reduces the need for extra layers. The other discovery was learning the difference between passive solar design and passive house. A typical passive solar building will utilize up to 50 percent of a home’s south side for glass. This works well in some conditions, but in very cold weather there is significant heat loss, or things can get too toasty, especially in spring and fall when the sun sits lower on the horizon. My house comprises about 20 percent glass on the south side, which means it neither heats up dramatically, nor loses heat. That balance pays off in simplifying heating and cooling needs. Even so, the house can still get a little too warm in fall, so I have to be active in opening and closing windows and plan to add some movable external shading. Much is said about health and indoor air quality, but little is known about how Passive Houses keep occupants healthy. I tried to minimize potential risks by building with low-processed materials like plywood, timber, tile, and cellulose and mineral wool insulations. But activities like cooking can still be problematic, so the University of Colorado Boulder is measuring my home’s indoor air quality to see how a passive house compares to a typical house in terms of indoor air quality. I’ll keep you posted! All images by Andrew Michler for Inhabitat

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Colorado man builds state’s most energy efficient house

Passive Erpingham House in Australia is affordable, lightweight and easily replicable

April 6, 2016 by  
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This historic village in France is on sale for $175,000 – but there’s a catch

April 6, 2016 by  
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If you’ve always wanted to own a picturesque French village, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity has just emerged : the village of Baudin, near the border with Switzerland, is going up for sale via auction. The starting price? €150,000, or about $175,000. Potential buyers be warned; the 5.5-acre site requires heavy restoration work that could cost up to €20 million, with annual maintenance costs of at least €250,000. Read the rest of This historic village in France is on sale for $175,000 – but there’s a catch

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This historic village in France is on sale for $175,000 – but there’s a catch

Recently captured critically endangered Sumatran rhino dies

April 6, 2016 by  
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Last month conservationists praised the first contact with a critically endangered Sumatran rhino in 40 years . But hope dissolved when the rhino, who was christened Najaq, passed away this week. She appears to have died from an infection instigated by a poaching attempt before her capture , though the exact cause of death remains unknown. Read the rest of Recently captured critically endangered Sumatran rhino dies

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Report reveals 11 million people and half of World Heritage sites are threatened by industry

April 6, 2016 by  
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The World Wildlife Fund issued a new report that warns nearly half of all World Heritage sites are being threatened by industrial activity. Oil and gas exploration, mining, and logging (legal and otherwise) all endanger some of the world’s most beloved and natural locations, many of which are home to biodiverse animal kingdoms. WWF is calling on world leaders to respond by taking more aggressive action to protect natural sites from commercial development and corporate interests. Read the rest of Report reveals 11 million people and half of World Heritage sites are threatened by industry

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Report reveals 11 million people and half of World Heritage sites are threatened by industry

30,000 hanging flowers greet spring in Berlin

April 6, 2016 by  
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Beautiful kindergarten blends sustainability and play into an eco-friendly envelope

March 16, 2016 by  
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Gorgeous solar-powered THAT House is an eco-friendly rebel “with just enough space”

February 25, 2016 by  
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Revolutionary new solar power plant generates energy all day and all night

February 25, 2016 by  
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A new solar plant has opened in Southern Nevada that can generate energy both during the day and at night, overcoming what has traditionally been one of the biggest drawbacks to solar power . The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant located about 225 miles northwest of Las Vegas is capable of generating 110 megawatts of power. That’s enough to reach about 75,000 homes. Read the rest of Revolutionary new solar power plant generates energy all day and all night

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