Can California take Green Building from IPod to IPoo?

July 20, 2015

ipooThe Energy “net zero” building movement continues to gain steam, but mere energy production may not be the only wrinkle added to sustainable housing..

Christian Science Monitor:

Imagine opening your monthly utility statement to find a check instead of a bill.

That dream may become a reality as more architects design buildings that generate more energy than they use. In Britain, the first low-cost version of just such a home is opening Thursday, marking the country’s initial forays into an emerging global market for so-called energy-positive or net-positive housing – solar-powered homes so efficient, they can generate more power than they consume. It’s the gold standard for green homes, and a concept that has begun to take off around the world.

“As more buildings incorporate energy efficiency and renewables to generate as much energy as they consume over the course of a year, net zero is becoming sort of passé,” energy reporter Molly Miller wrote in 2014 for technology and sustainability news site GreenBiz. “Now it’s time for a newer, sexier, more optimistic buzz phrase in sustainable design. Get ready for ‘net positive.’”

“About five years ago, there was an epiphany,” she says in a phone interview. “Not for all buildings, not for all climate zones – but energy-positive became technically feasible.”

In 2013, Boston-based design firm Urbanica, Inc. unveiled the first energy-positive housing development in the city, featuring three-story, three-bedroom townhouses equipped with 37 photovoltaic solar panels, triple-glazed windows, rainwater harvesting equipment, and airtight walls, Boston.com reported.

Greenbiz.com:

Have you heard the phrase “net zero” enough? As more buildings incorporate energy efficiency and renewables to generate as much energy as they consume over the course of a year, net zero is becoming sort of passé.

Now it’s time for a newer, sexier, more optimistic buzz phrase in sustainable design. Get ready for “net positive,” and add water.

“Life doesn’t do zero. We shouldn’t have as our end point some point that doesn’t do anything. We need to be regenerative and have a net positive affect on life,” said Jason McLennan, founder of the Living Building Challenge, a process for certifying both net zero and regenerative buildings, or “Living Buildings” that actually generate more energy over the course of a year than they consume. Living Buildings also have a minimum net zero waste and water requirement.

The Challenge is administered by the International Living Future Institute, which grew out of the U.S. Green Building Council’s office in the Cascadia region of the Pacific Northwest. Living Future ventured down south to San Francisco last week to host a Net Positive Energy+Water conference.

Net zero energy has become a palpable trend and sustainable design appears to be moving to a more user-friendly, democratic, hip paradigm that belongs to the tech economy. However, water has a way to go, McLennan told the group, which consisted largely of California architects, engineers and energy policy pros who have been part of that shift.

“Could you imagine a few years ago that you would go into an Apple store to buy a thermostat?” McLennan asked. He was referencing the Nest thermostat you can control with your iPhone or iPad — the hip factor of which went up even more when Google announced its Nest Labs purchase in January.

“I want to go down to the Apple Store to buy a toilet,” he added, suggesting it be called the “iPoo.”

“It’s going to take some Silicon Valley design team to partner with our institute to make a hip composting toilet,” McLennan predicted.The Living Future Institute is headquartered in the Seattle Bullitt Center — which captures, treats and reuses all water on site, incorporating rainwater catchment, greywater recycling and a blackwater system that operates via composting toilets. That’s one of a handful of buildings that can claim net-zero status in terms of water.

UPDATE – Hat tip to reader johnrussell40, I was actually looking for this piece..: Guardian:

Britain’s first low cost ‘energy positive’ house, which can generate more electricity than its occupants will use, opens on Thursday despite George Osborne axing plans to make housebuilders meet tough low carbon housing targets from next year.

The modest three-bedroom house built in just 16 weeks on an industrial estate outside Bridgend in Wales cost just £125,000 to build and, said its Cardiff University designers, will let occupants use the sun to pay the rent.

Using batteries to store the electricity which it generates from the solar panels that function as the roof, and having massive amounts of insulation to reduce energy use in winter months, it should be able to export electricity to the national grid for eight months of the year.

For every £100 spent on electricity used, it should be able to generate £175 in electricity exports, said Professor Phil Jones, whose team from the Welsh School of Architecture designed the house specifically to meet the low carbon housing targets set by the Labour government in 2006.

According to Jones, the building costs of the 100 squar e metre energy positive house could drop below £100,000 if several were built at the same time. “We save money and space by making the photovoltaic panels the roof itself and by dispensing with radiators and making the air collector part of the wall,” he said.
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“The building demonstrates our leading edge low carbon supply, storage and demand technologies at a domestic scale which we hope will be replicated in other areas of Wales and the UK in the future,” said Jones.

“Buildings that can generate, store and release their own renewable energy could be a game-changer. [This house] is intentionally built with the best off-the-shelf, affordable technologies, so it proves what’s possible even now – and there’s plenty more technology in the pipeline,” said Kevin Bygate, chief executive of Specific, a consortium of major companies including BASF and Pilkingtons.

2 Responses to “Can California take Green Building from IPod to IPoo?”


  1. Britain’s first energy-positive house opens in Wales: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jul/15/britains-first-energy-positive-house-opens-in-wales

    For what it’s worth, my all-electric barn conversion (using a ground-source heat pump), with PV and solar thermal, costs less to run in electricity bills than I receive back from the feed-in tariff. But that’s a quirk of the size of feed-in tariff I’m eligible to claim.


  2. Reblogged this on Notes from the Overground and commented:
    More Climate Change News


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