What does it mean to be “Net Zero”?

January 15th, 2020

Dear Readers,

A net zero home produces the same amount of energy that it uses. The home can generate its own electricity through means such as solar panels, water wheels, or wind turbines, to name a few. A home can generate more energy than it uses. In that case, the surplus energy can be sent back to the grid, and the home is technically creating enough energy to power itself, and others. 

The beauty in building a home that is net zero and meets Passive House standards, is that a home could function off of a minimal power source. That means less solar panels and/or less wind turbines are necessary to produce all the energy the house uses. 

Example (me, Shelby, trying to put my words into William’s Words– see “What does it mean to be a ‘Passive House’?” for sweater and windbreaker reference): 

You are going for a walk on a brisk, cold winter morning. You are wearing only a cotton t-shirt. In order for your body to warm up, you need to walk farther at a faster pace…perhaps you even need to run! Your body is then burning more calories, and therefore more energy, but there is no way to contain the heat your body is emitting. 

Now, let’s say that it is a brisk, cold winter morning, and you go outside wearing grandma’s knitted sweater (a Passive House’s insulation) and a windbreaker on top (a Passive House’s airtight building envelope). You don’t need to walk far before you feel your body beginning to become warm, nor do you need to walk too quickly. The energy your body needs to exert is minimal due to the heavy insulation from grandma’s sweater, and the airtight barrier provided by the windbreaker. 

Same with a net zero Passive House. Less solar panels are needed to power a Passive House due to its incredible ability to contain the heat or cool air provided from that energy. 

But what about other living necessities? If a home is truly ‘net zero,’ should it not do more than produce all the electricity that it uses; couldn’t a net zero home also provide other amenities we have grown accustomed to? Such as clean drinking water? Or, maybe even a sustainable way to dispose of our own human waste~ the result of our own consumed and processed fuel? 

Now, that kind of home could be, and is, considered as an ‘off the grid’ home. However, William and I like to think of it as a home which is holistically net zero, which entails the home having almost no literal connection to the site it is on. The home can be connected to the grid, but it does not rely on it.

Our home, The Seed, will have as small of an environmental footprint as possible. The energy it consumes is the energy it creates. The water it uses is the water it stores from precipitation. The waste that the home generates can either be totally composted or recycled.

Our ideas don’t sound too crazy yet… net zero passive homes are not uncommon. So, let’s just pretend for a moment that the ideas William and I have for our family’s future home, catch on. We stated in “Our Mission” blog, that if such a pipe dream were to occur, the homes should be prefabricated. But why? And how would a prefabricated home create holistic sustainability? Stay tuned for the next blog, “Why do we want The Seed to be build with ‘prefabrication’ in mind?”


Shelby Aldrich

1 Comment

  1. I like solar panels, water wheels, and wind turbines. Looking Good!


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© 2020 Sustaining Tree

© 2020 Sustaining Tree