Sustainable Houses

zHome – America’s First Zero-Energy, Market-Rate Multifamily Housing Project

zHome is a residential complex featuring 10 affordable,carbon neutral housing units that are net-zero-energy (they produce as much power as they consume).

Although this daring sustainable housing project was launched at the worst possible time (in 2008, on the same day the Dow Jones plummeted signaling the beginning of the economic crisis, zHome proved to be a survivor, and after many struggles and a two-year delay it’s complete and ready to be admired. Located in the Issaquah suburb of Washington, the eco-friendly home had its grand opening on September 14 and over 2,000 people have visited it in the last few weeks. It’s also been covered by major media outlets like The Wall Street Journal, Treehugger or the Mother Nature Network, and received praises for its ingenious design and net-zero energy rating.

The first thing that gets your attention when looking at the zHome is its solar panel-covered roof, but its developers knew from the start that there is more to creating a sustainable residence than sticking a bunch of panels on top. They also paid careful consideration to issues like indoor air quality, water conservation, materials used and construction waste, etc. Minimal water usage was one of the main aspects, and since the region gets quite a bit of rain the zHome was fitted with an efficient rainwater recycling system that uses 10 water cisterns ranging from 1,000 to 1,800 gallons in size to store water for flushing and washing.

“To achieve zero net energy, zHome is tied to the electric grid. During the summer, when the homes use less energy than is produced by rooftop solar panels, zHome is a net energy generator. In the cold winter, when solar production is lower and energy demand is higher, zHome will draw energy from the grid. Based on our commercial grade energy model, the electricity generation and use will average out to zero over the course of the year” project manager Brad Liljequist told Dwell.

Other notable features of zHome include energy monitoring systems, hydronic heating, ground source heat pumps, rain gardens, high-efficiency lighting, supersinsulated walls ((R-38 walls and R-60 ceilings), triple-pane windows and on-site parking that favors Smart Cars and other small-size vehicles to traditional cars. The units are selling for between $ 400,000 and $ 600,000 which is apparently mid-price range for  the Seattle real-estate market. Hopefully, the accessible price will make this green home a “model for mainstream housing in the future”.






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