August 21, 2015

IMPORTING THE SUPERIOR CULTURE:

Homes Make as Much Energy as They Use : Will zero-net-energy homes be the wave of the future? (Brittany Patterson, August 21, 2015, Scientific American)

Mutual Housing, the Sacramento-based nonprofit housing developer that operates the Spring Lake development, a ZNE complex of townhomes and apartments specifically for agricultural workers and their families, began by asking its future residents what qualities they wanted to see in their homes. The group sent its Spanish-speaking employees into the farm fields as well as packing and processing plants nearby to conduct a survey and get to know its constituency better.

Top of the list was lower rents, said Vanessa Guerra, a project manager with Mutual Housing, but the second most important desired trait surprised her.

"The rising costs of utilities was a big thing that was impacting their ability to be able to make it by day by day," she said. "That's when we decided for sure that zero net energy was a goal we were going to make for this property."

Across the United States, but especially in California, ZNE residential and commercial buildings are growing in number. Between 2012 and 2014, the number of buildings achieving ZNE doubled, according to the New Buildings Institute, which tracks this industry trend. In a way, it makes sense because buildings are a major consumer of power, accounting for an estimated 40 percent of all energy used in the country.

In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by using less energy--a tangible sell for residents and developers trying to get local governments on board for ZNE projects--is the allure of hugely reduced utility bills. To achieve such high levels of efficiency, homes must be built more airtight, which reduces indoor air pollution levels.

"I've heard amazing stories from many homeowners that they've throw away their inhalers after living in homes like this and amazing stories of negative utility bills," said Sam Rashkin, chief architect of the Building Technologies Office in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy with the Department of Energy. "This is where we think the industry is going."

Posted by at August 21, 2015 9:26 PM
  

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