If you’re thinking about doing a major renovation of your home or building a new home, I hope you’ll avail yourself of the growing number of resources on how to design and build houses that consume very little energy and that produce at least as much energy as they consume (i.e., net-zero-energy homes).
One of the most recent books on this topic is: Energy Free Homes for a Small Planet: A comprehensive guide to the design, construction, and economics of net-zero energy homes, by Ann V. Edminster (Green Building Press, December 2009). The publisher says: “Energy Free is designed to equip building professionals and homeowners alike with a toolkit for creating homes that use no more energy than they produce—this means homes that are free from the vagaries of energy-price fluctuations and that help to free society of the high political and environmental costs of fossil fuels. The author includes…step-by-step guidance on how to make decisions that will yield an energy-free residential project, whether a single-family home or multifamily building, new or existing, in an urban or a rural setting.” For more info about the book, click here.
One approach to designing and renovating homes so that they use very little energy is the Passive House approach, espoused by the Passive House Institute. The Passive House (or Passiv Haus) standard was originally developed in Germany. Passive houses are designed to reduce energy consumption by 80-90% compared to conventional houses. The first new home being built as a Passive House in California is a project of the Community Land Trust Association of West Marin (CLAM). The home, known as the Blue2 House, is an affordable second unit behind another home in Point Reyes Station; the main house was also renovated using some Passive House techniques. CLAM is chronicling the home’s construction process and progress on a blog.
Other resources worth checking out include: GreenBuildingAdvisor.com, which has published several case studies of net-zero and near-net-zero energy homes; the Home of the Future program from the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD); the Department of Energy’s Building America program; and Affordable Comfort Inc.’s Thousand Home Challenge and Deep Energy Reductions programs.