True Zero Net Energy Vermont House

PMA-farmhouse

This is the first LEED Platinum home in Vermont, although perhaps more importantly, it’s a documented and legitimate zero net energy home.  From January 2008 to January 2009, the 2,800 square-foot, single-family residence exported 16 kWh of electricity to the grid.  Over the same time period, a Bergey 10 kW net-metered turbine generated 6,286 kWh of on-site, green energy.  Designed by Pill – Maharam Architects, the handsome farmhouse was built for a family of four and features a number of green elements:

Pma-farmhouse-east-view

  • Super insulated passive solar design;
  • Thermal bridge mitigation and air sealed envelope;
  • High efficiency, operable windows for natural ventilation;
  • High efficiency lighting and appliances;
  • A ground source heat pump;
  • Long-lasting metal roof with passive overhangs;
  • Heat recovery ventilator (due to tight envelope); and
  • Polished concrete for thermal mass w/ hydronic tubing;

Although this beautiful green home features advanced green technology such as the wind turbine and heat pump, it’s all about passive solar design from the beginning.  For such, it’s a big-time award winner: GreenSource Best Green House of March 2009, 2008 AIA Vermont Honor Award for Sustainability and Design, Efficiency Vermont’s Best of the Best Award in 2008, and NESEA $10,000 Prize for Zero Net Energy Residence.  Pretty incredible!

Pma-farmhouse-kitchen

Pma-farmhouse-stairs

PMA-operable-windows

Photo credits: Pill-Maharam Architects by Westphalen Photography.


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  • Josh Stack

    There is no such thing as “Zero Energy”! Beautiful house…great project.

    • http://www.jetsongreen.com Preston

      Definitely, but we didn’t say “zero energy,” we said “zero net energy,” right? Beautiful, indeed.

      • Josh Stack

        True…I had something else in mind. I’d say there’s no such thing as “zero net energy”, except as a predominantly human construct, a fiction. One that damages natural systems.

        Energy is a flow through natural systems, and there is an area of study called biological / non-equilbrium thermodynamics that looks at how Life uses energy (usually in ways beneficial to other community members).

        “Zero” or “Net Zero” anything in the built world is a fiction that is harmful and contrary to any real goal of “sustainability”, however one might define that term.

        This appears to be a great project, but the real next step is understanding how our built environment interacts, consumes, changes and degrades the biological and geological energy cycles, and then designing and building in a way that preserves well-being and health within those cycles. That covers both embodied and operational energy.

        • Michael

          Thank you Josh. Would like to hear more on your views and ideas.

  • bob cobb

    that’s awesome, great looking place too

  • http://buildintelblog.com Nick Eber

    Green and good looking. I still think some people believe that green homes are less attractive than a “traditional” home and offer less, but I’ve seen more examples of green homes that are modern and aesthetically pleasing, and they offer so much more.

  • http://mportlandrealestate.com Portland Real Estate

    Beautiful. I love the location that it was built. Just take a look at all of that nice tree cover. That is half of a nice house, what do you see when you look out the window? I want to look out of my sustainable house and see greenery.

  • Justin Jones

    Beautiful house but let us appreciate it for what it is, a well thought out experiment on what could be, maybe, in the future. The cost of the wind turbine and other “exclusive” features on this house make it totally unreachable for the vast majority of homebuyers. The costs simply make it unattainable.

    Where is the call for implementing sound building science along with viable construction techniques to build reasonable priced efficient homes? Homes such as this, while nice, reach such a small percentage of the market that one wonders about their efficacy.

    I understand the need for research as I worked for one of the best DOE funded research consortiums in the country but let us keep the accolades in check a bit and focus on what is really important that being significant market penetration with affordable, efficient houses.

    • http://www.jetsongreen.com Preston

      $199 per square foot is expensive, but it’s not (by any means) unreachable or unattainable. In any event, a large portion of what’s going on with this house happens before the owners buy the wind turbine or ground source heat pump. With out the passive-solar, efficient design, there would be no zero net energy accomplishment.

      Design first, technology second.

      But as to affordable, you’re right. Make sure to check out Schafer’s House or the new Clayton i-house. We’re hitting the entire economic spectrum.

    • David

      Just as JG said. The Turbine was the last thing we did. This house is by no means of the future. Yes we were fortunate enough to be able to spend money on custom cabinetry and finishes and even the wind turbine. Without those, the house would still be 100% intact with its super insulated very tight envelope, and would have been down in the range of 140 -150 per SF, and would only cost $850 per year for all heating domestic HW and electricity use or about $70 per month for everything, in a cold northern climate. Orientation and the sun are FREE!!! My house is by no means the perfect project, but is certainly not an experiment on what could be. You need to pull your head out of the sand and have a look around, there are many low income affordable projects doing this right now, using the same high technology “THE SUN” its been around for 4 billions years.

      d

      • Josh Stack

        David…well said. And great project that really embodies much of what true sustainability really is. And I agree…even what current thinking calls net zero energy is best done as you did, using passive solar, i.e., local current sunlight and derivatives like wind!, high levels of insulation, high air tightness, energy recovery….

        Great work. The world needs of this now more than ever…not glitzy or “glamorous” or the sort of high technology that captures headlines but not much else.

  • http://www.ecolabelfundraising.com EcoLabel Fundraising

    Looks like it could be an old farmhouse on the outside, but contemporary in the inside. Very nice.

  • Evan

    It’s really nice, and actually pretty contemporary on the outside too, with modern windows, simplified form, and the mix of vertical corrugated metal and siding.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Roger-Valdez/1442344091 Roger Valdez

    Fantastic! But I know the question most asked in our part of the world would be “how much did it cost?” or “is it affordable?”

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