A Passive House certification is one of the highest available for energy-efficient homes. And this residence hall in Belfast, Maine demonstrates that, “space heating costs for TerraHaus are less than $300 per year ($30 per student), a big improvement from the two poorly insulated housing units it replaced, each with an annual space heating cost of about $500 per student.”
That is a 94% reduction in energy bills – helped out by the rooftop solar panels. The dorm sleeps 10 students and features chemical free building materials and durable fixtures to survive many school years. There is a solar water heater, an ultra-efficient (88%) HRV system that circulates in fresh outdoor air, and windows that absorb and keep in sunshine during the winter (50% solar heat gain).
The walls and roof were constructed to minimize any heat loss during the winter. They were measured for thermal efficiency using R-values and the walls achieved a value of 50 and the roof 80-100. The typical home has R-values ranging from 18-25 for walls and 50-60 for ceilings.
It’s an impressive home and worthy of the Design Award it received.
A home profiled in Wired has six very interesting zero-carbon elements, but it’s the last two that fascinate me – thick walls and ultra-efficient windows. Thick walls mean “two 8-inch-thick concrete layers that protect the interior from outside temperature fluctuations. On hot days, the concrete absorbs and retains heat, keeping rooms cool; at night it slowly releases that heat to maintain steady temps around the clock.”
And the windows, “three coats of glazing give these windows more than twice the thermal resistance of standard double-paned glass.”
Both focus on the thermal energy efficiency of a home. With the goal of completely insulating a home – no heat lost or gained, no cool air lost or gained. Several homes are being built with the goal of 100% efficiency and that completely alters how a home functions. Things like the heat created by our 98.6 degree bodies become important. Facing a home in the sun (cold climates) or away from (hot climates) becomes essential.
And a lot of this can be accomplished with simple building materials, like concrete walls – which can easily be incorporated in building new homes. And the more complicated materials, like nanotech windows discussed in the article, can be placed on existing homes:
There’s some revolutionary nanotechnology that’s about to go into the glass—different kinds of coatings that make them five to 10 times more energy-efficient than double-paned windows. These windows are as energy-efficient as walls.
With these improvements the energy costs of heating and cooling should plummet, and traditional heaters and HVACs can be downsized or turned off for weeks at a time.
“The house generates twice as much energy in Hungarian conditions and three times as much in Madrid as the house itself spends,” the Odooproject team states. “This amount is able to serve two other house’s needs, or provide a 70-kilometer (43.5-mile) long travel distance – daily – for an electric car.”
Designs like these bring us closer to taking homes off the electrical grid. And that is something I’ve heard engineers say is the solution, and the where the trend is going.
Photos of the home:
The central idea is the home is 100% energy-efficient. In winter that means the slightest amount of heat from the sun gets trapped in the house, and can provide the majority of winter heating.
A newly discovered cluster of galaxies, more than 5 billion light years from Earth…is among the most massive clusters of galaxies in the universe, and produces X-rays at a rate faster than any other known cluster.
It also creates new stars at an “unmatched” pace of more than 700 per year, said Michael McDonald. “This extreme rate of star formation was unexpected,” he said during a NASA news conference Wednesday, noting that the Milky Way forms just one or two stars a year.
In addition to being massive, unique, and the biggest star-nursery in the universe, this area, called Phoenix, also helps theorists with something, the galactic cooling problem.
For years scientists have been coming up with explanations for how stars are formed. The earliest being a mass of molecules would collapse in on themselves as fusion begins. The mass would then accumulate until its gravity becomes strong enough to spin, turn into a sphere, and pull on everything around it, collecting planets, asteroids, and other debris into its solar system.
But, this doesn’t take into account thermodynamics, specifically why doesn’t the star expand as it heats up. Indeed, several half-stars were observed in the universe stuck in this state of expansion unable to contract into the ultra-compact ball of a star.
That’s where a new theory comes in, the galactic “cooling flow”.
**There appears to be no name for the theory, all references are to a general theory theory of star formation.
This says the creation of stars is a lot like an explosion, with an initial burst of heat which then dissipates bringing cool air back into the explosion zone. In this case, thermonuclear fusion ignites much of the galaxy and begins sucking into the center lots of mass, including the surrounding galaxies.
As the (star) forms, this plasma initially heats up due to the gravitational energy released from the infall of smaller galaxies.
As the gas cools, it should condense and sink inward, a process known as a “cooling flow.” In the cluster’s center, this cooling flow can lead to very dense cores of gas, termed “cool cores,” which should fuel bursts of star formation in all clusters that go through this process. Most of these predictions had been confirmed with observations – the X-ray glow, the lower temperatures at the cluster centers – but starbursts accompanying this cooling remain rare. – TG Daily
A step forward in our knowledge of star formation, but something tells me we are not there yet.