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A Zero-Energy Community: Part 5

Project Manager Brad Liljequist chronicles the building of the zHome, a ten-unit townhome in Issaquah, Washington—the first multifamily zero-energy community in the United States. Part 5: How do ground source heat pumps and solar panels work?   Two of our most central technologies in achieving zero net energy are our ground source heat pump system (for heating and hot water), and our solar panels (which generate electricity). The two account for about 60% of getting to zero net energy, so obviously they play a key role.  Ground source heat pumps are a well-known technology, but are generally not mainstream, especially here in the Pacific Northwest. The system combines three highly efficient processes which together result in a system which over three times more efficient than a typical forced air furnace. The slides give a good narrative to how the system works, but if you’d like more details, check out the ground source system sign from the zHome education signage—it is the second sign in sign package one. Solar energy, surprisingly, works quite well in the Northwest—solar panels here put out about 70% of the solar energy of a panel in Sacramento. Solar energy quietly is becoming more and more cost effective, with prices coming down and efficiency going up. Currently solar panels convert about 15-20% of the solar energy hitting them to energy—quite efficient when you consider that photosynthesis is only a half a percent efficient! Also, solar panels are quite durable—many panels from the 1970’s are still functioning well.  There is little to go wrong in them. Given how little maintenance they require (simple occasional  cleaning) there is a huge amount going for them.  
November 16, 2011
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Mr. CHIP Goes to Washington

A highlight of this year's Solar Decathlon was the CHIP house, designed, built, and transported to Washington DC by a team of over 100 SCI-Arc and Caltech students. The uniquely puffy "outsulated"  CHIP house—the Compact, Hyper-Insulated Prototype—is an effort to "address the contemporary issues or sustainability, energy efficiency, and affordable housing through a built work." If you missed it during the Decathlon, you have a few additional opportunities to check it out, most notably an exhibition opening this Friday at SCI-Arc's Library Gallery. "Mr. CHIP Goes to Washington," running through December 16, displays through photographs, video, and time-lapse footage the "frantic month in Washington D.C. that is the culmination of the team's two-year effort to conceptualize and develop its proposition for a new sustainability."
October 25, 2011
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A Zero-Energy Community: Part 1

Project Manager Brad Liljequist chronicles the building of the zHome, a ten-unit townhome in Issaquah, Washington—the first multifamily zero-energy community in the United States. Part 1: Introduction to the project.   I am writing this as I sit in the zHome Stewardship Center, which will open later this Fall as a hub of education and market transformation for radically green housing in the Pacific Northwest. I’m surrounded by the sounds of typical construction wrap-up on a residential community—the clink of rebar being laid down for the concrete walkways, Motown being played on the radio by a cleanup crew, and a trackhoe moving larger trees into place. There’s also non-typical sounds—those of drills on the roof, where the solar panels are being installed, and ground source heat pumps starting up for the first time.
September 14, 2011
Yerba Buena Street Life Plan

Yerba Buena Street Life Plan

Recently in San Francisco, the Yerba Buena Community Benefit District and CMG Landscape Architecture unveiled the Yerba Buena Street Life Plan. The plan is meant to serve as a master plan for the mixed-use neighborhood known as Yerba Buena that is located south of Market Street and includes prominent public buildings and spaces such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, Yerba Buena Gardens, and the Moscone Center. The goal of the plan, meant to be implemented over the next ten years, is to create an identity for the neighborhood and foster a sense of community where residents and passers-through can stop and enjoy the area and engage with its outdoor spaces.
August 8, 2011
Modern sustainable house by the beach

Tunquen Treasure

A set of solar panels, a wind-powered well, and passive sustainable strategies make living miles from municipal utilities a non-issue for this Chilean beachgoer.
May 16, 2011
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HelioTrace Robotic Facade

I was intrigued by a rendering featured in the latest newsletter from SOM, which came across my desk a few weeks ago. So I wrote the firm for more information. Turns out this new invention—a kinetic, solar-responsive curtain wall system—is still in development and won't be available on the market for a few years still. But it's an intriguing concept, so I figured I'd share.
April 11, 2011
Yellow North Face tent atop a wooden deck

A Platform for Living

Setsumasa and Mami Kobayashi’s weekend retreat, two and a half hours northwest of Tokyo, is “an arresting concept,” photographer Dean Kaufman says, who documented the singular refuge in the Chichibu mountain range. “It’s finely balanced between rustic camping and feeling like the Farnsworth House.”
April 6, 2011
Solar energy house in Denver’s Highland neighborhood

Denver's Energy Efficient Home

John and Paige Damiano are snow worshippers. As the Colorado and New Mexico territory manager for Burton Snowboards, John depends on winter precipitation for his business, not to mention for family entertainment. While the pair  waits all summer for the flakes to fall, they’ll be the first to tell you that their domestic comfort actually revolves around the sun.
March 26, 2011
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Just Redo It

What do you get when you give a couple of designers unlimited creative license on a very limited budget? For Andrew Dunbar and Zoee Astrakhan, the possibilities were limitless.
January 24, 2011
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