Net-Zero Tiny Home Designed by Students


How much space does a person need to live comfortably? Not that much, according to tiny home enthusiasts. And tiny homes are certainly one way to combat the increased demand for affordable homes in urban areas. The students of Laney College in Oakland, California, have designed and built a solar-powered net-zero tiny home to help combat the housing shortage in the area. The home was entered into last year’s Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) competition and won the “Best Architecture” and “Best Design” accolades.


The tiny house is called the Wedge and measures just 202 sq ft (18.8 sq m). It rests atop a 20 ft (6 m) long trailer and is primarily aimed at those who have been priced out of their homes by gentrification and the rising rents it brought. The home was designed in a way that ensures low maintenance and running costs.

The home produces as much energy as it consumes, and it gets its power from a solar panel array mounted on the roof, while excess power is stored in a battery bank. An inverter converts the power from the 24 volt DC bank of batteries to the standard 120 volts AC for the appliances and devices that require it. However, most of the lighting, devices and appliances, including the water heater, are powered directly from the battery.




The Wedge has an interesting shape, which is how it got its name. A part of it juts out and the main purpose of this design choice was to create additional interior space, but keep the same footprint. The home features a sitting area, two sleeping lofts, a kitchen and a bathroom. The sitting area is fitted with an L-shaped sofa, which hides a storage area. As for sleeping, the home can accommodate a family of three. One of the lofts fits a queen-sized bed, while the other is big enough for a single bed. The larger is accessible via a storage stair, and the smaller one via a ladder. Although, since the lofts are just large enough to fit the beds, I would like to see some protective railing installed to prevent falls.


small loft

The kitchen features a long counter that has all the necessities incorporated into it, namely a sink, a small fridge, a pantry and a two-burner induction stovetop. There is still ample amounts of counter space left over. Opposite the kitchen is the working/dining area, which is fitted with custom-built furniture and has seating that can be stored underneath the desk when not in use. The bathroom is fitted with a composting toilet, shower and sink.


The home is also fitted with a natural gravel and wetland plant based greywater filtration system. This water can then be reused for irrigation, since the plan for these homes is to be used as part of urban farming initiatives.

The Wedge is currently on sale for $55,000 via Tiny House Listings.

Net-Zero Community Completed In Seattle


With all the talk about the need for greater sustainability, it’s nice to things actually being done in that direction. Dwell Development has recently completed a small, sustainable home community called New Rainier Vista. This community is located in Seattle, WA and was created in collaboration with the architecture firm Julian Weber Architects. ‘



The New Rainer Vista community is made up of 42 sustainable, green homes, which have the potential for net-zero living. They also boast of a very modern and unique design. The homes are set in clusters of four and arranged around a central garden, which is great for community building. The main aim of the developers in constructing this community was creating a space where a society of like-minded, sustainability-conscious individuals could come together and enjoy communal living.


All the 42 units are designed in a way that allows for net-zero energy living. While they do not yet have solar panels installed, the rooftops of all the units are fully prepared for PV panels to be installed. The homes also feature double-framed walls, which offer great insulation, as well as triple-glazed windows. The units are also fitted with tankless water heaters and heat recovery ventilation systems. The community was built close to the train station to encourage car-less travel. The homes are also 5-Star Built Green certified.






Two of the units are clad in cork, which is an interesting design choice, and adds to the insulation value, while another of the units is Net Energy Positive (HERS -1) certified. The latter is also the first net positive home in Seattle, and the first passive home built by Dwell. The homes also feature in-floor radiant heating, and are equipped with a keyless front door entry. All the flooring, tiling and countertops are made from recycled or reclaimed materials.


The community took five years to construct, with the last home built and sold earlier this year.

Year Long Study of Net-Zero Energy Home Completed Successfully


It has now been a year since the Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility (NZERTF) in Washington DC has been built and its energy harvesting capabilities began to be monitored. The home was built on the campus at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), where scientists and researchers conducted a computer simulation that replicated the energy consumption of a family of four. The results showed the home to be a success, since after a year the home generated 13,577 kWh of energy. This is about 491 kWh more than was needed.

The test home measures 2,700 square feet (252 sq m) and is a two-story home, which was built to resemble a regular home. The home is equipped with a rooftop mounted solar panel array, which was able to harvest enough energy to create the surplus despite being hindered by very bad weather during the winter. For about 38 days the 32 photovoltaic panels were covered by snow yet still managed to harvest enough energy to power the home and create the surplus.

The energy expenditure was calculated and monitored as though a typical American family of four lived in the house, which includes showering, charging gadgets and laptops, watching TV and so on. According to the researchers, the most important factor that led to the success of the experiment was the super efficient thermal envelope. They designed it so it nearly eliminated unwanted air infiltration while the insulation level in the walls and roof was also doubled, effectively decreasing the heating and cooling loads of the home. The home also features a geothermal system to control the heating and cooling loads.



While the findings proved to be a success, fitting a house with the type of technology that led to it would cost around $162,700. The benefit is an electricity savings of $4,373 per year, but the starting investment is still more than an average family can afford. The researchers will continue this experiment, with a focus on how the energy efficiency can be improved further and how the difference between the investment costs and savings can be lessened.

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A Zero Net Energy Prototype House Built in California


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.

The ZNE House features a 5.88 kW rooftop solar photovoltaic system designed to supply all the needed power to the home. The house also features a highly efficient heating and cooling system, while the household water is heated by a Rheem Hybrid Heat Pump water heater. This heater works by harvesting heat from the air around it and transfers this heat into the water of its tank. Normally, heat pump water heaters can be two to three times more energy efficient than conventional water heaters, but they only work in locations that remain in the 40º–90ºF (4.4º–32.2ºC) range in all seasons, and which have at least 1,000 cubic feet (28.3 cubic meters) of air space around the water heater.

The ZNE house is fitted with dual-pane, triple-layer, argon gas-filled Energy Star-qualified windows, and has an electric vehicle charging station in the garage. The roof is covered with roof tiles that defer sunlight and heat away from the home, which is a necessary feature to keep the cooling costs and energy expenditure low during the hot summers in California. The house also has custom designed ducts that are buried underneath the attic insulation so air is not passing through a warm environment before being cooled. The lighting throughout the house is 100 % LED lighting. The home also features a two-stage, 95-percent efficient Lennox furnace and an air conditioner rated at a high 19 SEER and 14 EER.

The builders have not revealed the final cost of buying this type of home, though they did stipulate it would cost more than a traditional home. The higher price would, of course, be offset by the low monthly costs associated with living in a net-zero home.

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Wind Powered Net Zero Miami Beach Home Receives LEED Platinum


A Miami Beach home, located at 2020 Alton, has been awarded LEED Platinum, with the score of 120/89.5. The project is a joint effort of developer Matthew Lahn of the Florida Green Home Design Group, architect Ari Sklar of Sklarchitecture, and general contractor Robert Arkin. The project also has an -8 HERS score, has been named an Energy Star Qualified Home, and has received the National Green Building Standard Emerald rating, which indicates that the house saves 60% or more of its energy use.


The 3,200 square foot house is powered by a combination of 600w Vertical Axis Wind Turbines made by Urban Green Energy, and an array of 11.5kw high efficiency, frameless solar panels made by 1SolTech. The house has a solid concrete structure with closed cell/open cell foam insulation and Low E insulated impact resistant windows, which, taken together, provides enough power to for the household with some left over to be sold back to FPL through the grid for credit. The house is also fitted with a battery back-up system that will provide enough power to run the essential components of the home in an emergency situation. In addition to that, the solar panels are rated for 160mph winds and the wind turbines are easily folded down and secured during extremely windy conditions.

The windows and doors are from the CGI Estate series manufactured by CGI Windows & Doors. These impact resistant windows and doors feature clear anodized aluminum frames with monolithic grey Energy Advantage Lo E 366 high-performance glass. These windows are designed to withstand category 5 strength hurricane winds.


The house also features a 7000 gallon concrete cistern to store the collected rainwater, which will be used to fill the pool and irrigate the garden. The cistern is also coated with a product called Pond Armor, which makes the water potable and therefore making it possible to use in the event of an emergency.

The heating and cooling needs of the home are taken care of by geothermal heat pumps made by Dual Air. These pumps also produce almost all of the hot water for the home, while evacuated solar tube collectors from Solarus provide a redundant hot water source. This is a groundwater system that is used in conjunction with supply and discharge wells that were developed by Centerline Drilling. A backup hot water source is provided by tank less gas water heaters.

Other sustainable and green features of the home include:

– LED lighting used throughout the house.
– Sustainable wood custom cabinetry made by Poggenpohl.
– An energy efficient appliance package designed by La Cuisine Gourmet.
– WaterSense-qualified faucets and fixtures made by Toto (bathroom cabinetry is made from sustainable materials)
– Recycled glass countertops manufacture by Vetrazzo.
– Low-VOC paints and finishes by Sherwin Williams.
– Icynene spray foam insulation.