For many of us, when we think of sustainable homes, what comes to mind are new concept homes: tiny homes, pods, smart homes, and Energy Star appliances. But at Harvard, a group of students and faculty are looking to revolutionize the way we think about environmentally friendly homes. Not by building new, cutting edge homes, but rather by renovating one from the 1920s. And sometimes, renovations might also include going so far as the foundation of the house, and if you reach a roadblock in continuing your renovations, take help from professionals like Dallas foundation repair.
The HouseZero Project’s plans are simple, if ambitious: to provide a blueprint for other homeowners to maximize their own home efficiency on the cheap. The initiative, which is a part of the Harvard Center for Green Building and Cities, plans to make their prototype ultra-efficient by utilizing sunlight to minimize carbon emissions. And all this protyping would obviously be in need of remodeling the whole structure, which is where experts like Terra Inc Construction step in, as learning from professionals like these can have a significant impact on your work.
Still, they may be fighting an uphill battle; 48% of home buyers prefer homes that have never been lived in before. Unfortunately, construction of new buildings has a significant effect on the environment.
In total, more than 160 million tons of debris is created each year by a combination of construction and demolition, of which just 20-30% is collected and recycled, according to a 2009 report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
However, the Harvard group remains optimistic about the future of green housing.
“In the U.S., most of our building stock has already been built,” Ali Malkawi, a professor of architectural technology and the leader of the CGBC program said to Curbed.com. “We’re shattering the belief that you need to build new building to be efficient. We want to show how this can be replicated almost anywhere, and solve one of the world’s biggest energy problems, inefficient existing buildings.”
In order to change beliefs, the HouseZero Project has selected a 1920s stick-built home as the target for their renovation project. The house, like many in its Cambridge neighborhood, requires near constant heat or cooling during winter or summer, a tremendous contribution to the home’s environmental footprint.
To rectify the problem, the Harvard team will install geothermal wells to help regulate the temperature inside the house, even in the seasonal extremes, as well as triple glazed windows, a solar vent, and a concrete slab designed to soak up heat from the sun.
They also plan to remove a parking lot and replace it with a rain garden, with specially selected soil to help retain water, which is important since maintaining a lawn can also cause a significant increase in your home’s footprint.
There are 20 million acres of lawn currently in the United States, which experts in lawn care recommend feeding up to an inch of water each week. While some more temperate regions can rely on natural rainfall to satisfy this requirement, others have to heavily rely on watering their garden, which requires a lot of resources.
This water waste is also mitigated by the HouseZero Project’s efforts to ensure retention of rainwater.
All this is part of the HouseZero’s holistic approach to improving the efficiency and sustainability of older homes.
While the current goal is to create a house that is completely emission free, the real purpose of the HouseZero Project is to provide a way for homeowners to effectively and efficiently renovate their home to reduce their environmental impact.
“While a homeowner may not be able to implement every aspect of HouseZero,” their site reads, “applying one or more of its components could positively impact its environment, the health of its occupants, and building operating costs.”