Thursday, October 02, 2014

No Glam, Just Bam: Net-Zero Energy with Passive Design in Maine

Although putting the principles of passive energy design to work can efficiently generate a solid, high yield over time, "passive" is just not the kind of attitude the mainstream culture gets turned on by these days. You get bang for your buck, but they're looking for technologies that make more noise.

With the relics of the Industrial Age still running big jobs all around us, we unconsciously think a powerful solution has to somehow belch smoke and fire and make loud banging sounds.  Like so many pro tennis "raquet-eers" of our time, we want our solutions forcefully grunting with each serve, so we can hear how hard they're working for us.

So, with the news that wildlife on the planet has been cut in half in the last 40 years (Wall Street Journal), as the earth is blindly stripped of their habitats by multiplying human populations, here's another working example of how far you can go with how little. What a very important advantage that is turning out to be.

The New York Times just published this look at a net-zero energy house built by Jack Soley, a commercial real estate developer (and evidently, hardy outdoors-type,) in Portland, Maine. He built this retreat home on a tiny island off the coast as,

"a 1,200-square-foot structure that produces all the energy it consumes — less than it takes to power a high-end refrigerator." 
Mr. Soley and, "Christopher Campbell, a Portland-based architect, collaborated on a design that borrowed from traditional marine and boating practices to create the simplest, most cost-effective solutions..." 
"The 12-Volt Solution" - NYT Home & Garden, Oct. 1, 2014
How?  By putting passive-house principles to work in his design, like:
  • "super-insulation, double-paned fiberglass-clad windows and a south-facing orientation to the sun";
  • building it on only a 12-volt system powered by a micro-array of solar panels only the size of a dining room table, and stored in four marine batteries;   
  • collecting and storing rainwater to supply nearly all that the home uses, with an on-demand heater providing hot showers, etc.
"'You can be here,'" Foley says in the article, "'and have no notion you’re off the grid on a coastal island.'"

Architect Christopher Campbell's site