Features of a Net Zero Eco House

Pam McCurdy
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

A 2,200-square-foot, net-zero home that generates as much energy as it consumes in a year was featured at the Eco Experience at the 2009 Minnesota State Fair. Created by SALA Architects, the 2009 Eco House was a modern-design home with four bedrooms and two baths. Construction on the house began July 22 by Showcase Renovations and Mike Otto Builders.

This is the fourth year an Eco House has been featured at the Eco Experience. However, this year’s Eco House includes several new innovative, eco-friendly features including:

  • Net Zero: The Eco House is a Net Zero home, which means it generates as much energy as it consumes in a year. Net Zero is different from homes that are off the electric grid in that it generates energy from the sun during the day while storing that energy in the utility grid during the peak utility load times.
  • Solar Heating: The Eco House has a south-facing working facade that incorporates photovoltaic and solar hot water panels in the architecture. This aids in the production of energy and is designed to serve also the many other needs of the house, including: summer shading, winter passive solar heating, water collection, and operable thermal blanketing. At the same time, the thick, insulated north wall stops wind from penetrating the house. The north side is constructed of structurally insulated panels that are easy to disassemble and reuse, which also helps the Eco Experience stay true to its mission of reducing waste.
  • Solar Chimney: Another new feature for the 2009 Eco House is a solar chimney that heats incoming fresh air in the winter and helps with natural ventilation in the summer.
  • Outdoor Features: The Eco House features a green roof on the carport, raised beds to grow vegetables, a rain garden with native plants, and a pervious driveway to soak up rainwater.
  • Indoor Features: Inside, the Eco House features a low-flow showerhead, a toilet that has a gray water sink system, LED lights, and a kitchen countertop made of reclaimed walnut shells.

Various other local businesses donated efforts and construction to the Eco house other than those noted above such as: Powerfully Green, Natural Built Home, SALA Architects, UMR Geothermal, Water Furnace International, Showcase Renovations, Inc., Mike Otto Construction, Panelworks Plus, Inc., Extreme Panel Technologies, Inc., Synergy Products, Loewen Windows, Southview Design, Borgert Products, Minnesota Green Roofs Council.

For more information, visit pca.state.mn.us/ecoexperience/eco-greenbuildings.html.

Tips for environmentally friendly painting

by Sarah Nettleton, Sarah Nettleton Architects Ltd

In 1999, almost 1.2 million pounds of excess paint were collected at Hennepin County’s household hazardous waste sites. 100,000 pounds of this paint was still useable. If stored correctly, paint stays in good condition for a long time. If it mixes smoothly, it can still be used.

You can measure first when buying paint for your home. Calculate the area to be painted (height x width = total square feet). One gallon of paint covers about 300-400 square feet.

Read labels and choose the least hazardous paints; look for low volatile organic compounds (VOC) or water-based paints, stains, finishes and paint strippers when possible.

To prevent paint from drying out, cover the paint can with plastic wrap, replace the lid securely and store the paint upside down.

Net Zero Eco House

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