How Green Can You Get? Check Out ZeroHouse

Monday, January 18, 2010

by Shonda Novak, AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN, January 16, 2010

ZeroHouse It looks like it could take off. And the two Austin architects developing a prototype for an off-the-grid house designed to save as much energy as it consumes hope their project does just that, figuratively speaking.

Trademarked as the ZeroHouse, Scott Specht and Louise Harpman’s compact modular structure shouts “futuristic,” from the composting unit beneath it to the solar panels on the roof. It looks as if it could be housing for space pioneers, but Specht and Harpman have their sights set on planet Earth for its first occupant.

The ZeroHouse design is on the cutting edge of the green building movement: so-called net-zero houses that generate as much energy as they use over the course of a year and handle all or most of their own water and wastewater needs. They are built with renewable materials and advanced energy- and water-conservation features.

The net-zero concept is not yet mainstream, but it’s growing. Examples include a zero-energy house in Edmonton, Alberta, and the SOL development in East Austin, where developers ultimately will build 40 homes with features such as solar panels and energy-efficient designs.

Specht and Harpman’s design takes the concept to its limits, including the fact that it is prefabricated and sits on four stainless-steel anchors that allow the house to be installed without excavating the site, reducing its environmental impact even more.

It is designed to operate with no connections to external sources of power or water.

“The off-grid model has the most challenges, so that’s the test case we designed for,” Specht said. “We think that the value is in the complete self-sufficiency, the absolutely minimal environmental and site impact, and the fact that this would be a model for what can be done — a ‘first adapter’ demonstration of the ultimate in green living.” [Read rest of story]

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