The Santa Monica-based award-winning green design studio Minarc partnered up with Habitat for Humanity, and a local non-profit firm Restore Neighborhoods LA to design and build affordable, net-zero energy prefabricated homes in the low-income areas of South Los Angeles. Together they built 3 homes, which were all built on vacant lots in the poorest neighborhood of South Los Angeles. The houses all feature Minarc’s innovative, interlocking panel system, which is called mnmMOD. The homes are also equipped with roof top mounted solar panels.
Karl Wanaselja and his business partner and wife Cate Leger from Berkley, California opted to build a home office using a retired shipping container. They chose to do so primarily because they live in an earthquake prone area, which makes shipping containers the perfect choice as building blocks. They purchased the 40 foot container, which was once a refrigerated unit, for just $1800 from the Port of Oakland.
Frederick Corson’s 5000 square foot home in Northern California is one of the largest in the area, yet its cooling and heating costs are very low. Instead of using traditional sources of heating and cooling, Carson fitted the house with a ground-source heat pump known as a geothermal heat pump. Such a heat source is environmentally friendly and sustainable, while it also keeps the costs of heating and cooling the house minimal.
Lulu, a single mom from Southern California, recently went back to school, which prevented her from working full time to pay a market rent. Due to this she was forced to move out of her conventional home, so instead she decided to build for herself and her small daughter a home from a shipping container. She built the home herself with no prior construction experience.
Lulu was given the shipping container for free, and it took her about a month to cut out the windows and doors using a saw. She then installed the needed insulation to which she added bubble wrap to prevent condensation buildup. For the floor and ceiling, she opted for Styrofoam insulation. She also performed some basic plumbing to get running water in the kitchen and bathroom. The kitchen is equipped with a propane camp stove and a portable, propane-powered on-demand water heater.
When Kam Kasravi and Connie Dewitt were faced with the decision on how to build a cabin on their woodland property in the Santa Cruz mountains they first considered buying a prefab house. But after realizing that there simply wasn’t enough room to bring in a prefab house down the narrow forest path that leads to their property, they started considering building the cabin out of recycled shipping containers. They enlisted the help of architect David Fenster of Modulus Architects, who designed for them the modern yet spacious shipping container cabin.
Last week, the Zero Net Energy (ZNE) house was unveiled in Clovis, California. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom home has a living area of 2,064 square-feet and was built as a join effort between BIRAenergy Consulting and De Young Properties. Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) offered technical assistance to the builders in trying to find ways of getting the home to use only one-third of the energy needed for a house built to minimum code. ZNE House was built to become a model for future net zero homes in the area.
The house features numerous energy-efficiency improvements, which are in accordance with California’s Long-Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan. This plan stipulates that all new residential construction in California will be net-zero by the year 2020. The house will not be made available for purchase yet, as it will serve as a prototype to study how well it functions and what improvements have yet to be made.