In one of the first real-world examples of taking a green sustainable building design and using it to build a house that’s both energy eff icient and affordable, the creators of Empowerhouse have succeeded in doing exactly that.
Empowerhouse is a two-family duplex, net-zero energy passive house originally built as part of the 2011 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. Earlier this year, it became the new home of Lakiya Culley, a single mother of three, who works as a secretary for the U.S. State Department, and another family that will be transitioning out of public housing.
The Solar Decathlon is a biannual, international competition that challenges collage teams from around the world to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses, which are then exhibited on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in September and October.
This house has two major components that need a little explaining. A net-zero energy house “produces as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year,” according to the U.S. Energy Department
The non-profit organization Passive House Institute US explains that a “passive house is a very well-insulated, virtually air-tight building that is primarily heated by passive solar gain” and a small internal heat source. It also has a constant supply of fresh air provided through “an energy recovery ventilator.”
Both experts at the Passive House Institute and the Parsons New School For Design (one of the primary participants in planning, design, and construction of Empowerhouse) agree that a passive house consumes up to 90 percent less energy for heating and cooling than a typical house.