As with all terms environmental, the devil is in the definition and the lawyers have been hard at work with so called zero energy buildings. A net ZEB, by definition, produces as much energy as it uses over the course of a year. To get to that point, buildings owners make their buildings as efficient as possible and then use, in the typical case, on-site renewable energy to get into zero energy territory. But there are other variations, including net zero site energy, net zero source energy, net zero energy costs, net zero energy emissions, and near zero energy, all of which have been kindly defined by the DOE. The DOE, as assisted by Building Green, has also launched a Zero Energy Buildings Database, with the following four buildings.
I just received an email about an interesting project on the cusp in Steamboat Springs, Colorado called Aviator. Aviator is a mixed-use, multifamily and storage units facility that’s targeting LEED Gold certification. Seeking superior energy efficiency for the project, Olson Development retained EcoSteel to provide the structure. EcoSteel calculates that their company could contribute ~18 points towards overall certification of Aviator based upon energy efficiency (10), heat island effect reduction (1), and recycled, reused, and regional materials use (7).
Update 8/08/2012 – Parans is now available through Wasco.
The interesting thing about fiber optic lighting is that it creates the ability to put natural light in places where there is none. Generally, here’s how it works. Using a building-mounted panel with computer-controlled, sun-tracking lenses, natural light is channeled through optical fibers to luminaires that diffuse the light (see diagram below).
Since early 2008, HUVCO Daylighting Solutions has been offering a fiber optic lighting system like this, or the Parans System, which was developed in Sweden. Although light only travels about 60 feet through optical cables, the ability to direct light in this manner is quite interesting.
This is a small little mixed-use building called Graham Street Lofts. With 12 residential units and some ground floor commercial, the infill building sits in the Eliot neighborhood of Northern Portland. Residential units start at ~$324k and each home is energy efficient and modern inside. The R-30, 10-inch thick PerformWall ICFs are made of recycled polystyrene and cement and help to keep the interiors quiet. Combine the efficient envelope with hydronic radiant floors and overall home energy use is quite low, too. Additionally, Graham Street Lofts has some of the following green amenities and finishes:
If you’re in a sunny location and your home has windows, then you probably like to pull a curtain or close the shutters to keep direct heat from entering the home. Just today I was driving by a modern home with slight overhangs and nodded my head in approval thinking: "buya … such a simple design element and it’s providing shading for those super large windows during the heat of the day." I realize we’re talking about something basic, but if you have the chance, roof overhangs can make a difference as to how much you’re manipulating the interior temperature with mechanical systems. Check this ranch house by Cottam Hargrave. With that much glass in Georgetown, Texas, a little roof overhang is a prerequisite, don’t you think?!
This is Blue Ridge Parkway Destination Center, a $9.8 million visitor’s center near Ashville, North Carolina. As a modern structure seeking LEED Gold certification, it’s garnered significant press for its ecological design. Designed by Lord, Aeck, & Sargent, Blue Ridge was modeled to use 75% less energy than a comparable, conventionally designed building. That’s due, at least in part, to its incredible green features, such as the sawtooth Trombe walls on the southerly face, 10,000 sf green roof, natural daylighting, high-efficiency mechanical system, natural ventilation, radiant heating, rainwater reclamation system for on-site use, etc.