However you choose to spell it, it is what Clément and I have been knee deep in researching for the past five years together. To be honest, I had never heard of this kind of house until I met Clément, who is from France. Low energy consuming house design is more common in Europe than here in the U.S. He had only been in the United States a year when we brought our first child earth side in our home here in Brunswick, MD. The moment we looked into Lina’s eyes we knew we wanted to create something more than just four walls. We wanted a home that sustained us, that worked for us. This got the wheels spinning and we dove into anything and everything passiv hause/net zero energy. We got in touch with the Passive House Institute US and we were referred to a local architect, David Peabody in Bethesda Maryland who was in the process of building a passive hause right here in our state! Our green/geek dreams came true when we got to walk through and tour the DC Passive House with David. Although this house was MUCH bigger than what we wanted, it left us with a feeling of “we can do this!”.
We came home and for the past few years we have fallen down the Passive House rabbit hole that soon led us to taking the Passive House idea one step further to Net Zero homes. What is the difference you ask? I can break it down for you pretty easily, and I will try to not use words like “thingy”, “stuff”, and “cool” (unless I am talking about about temperature control) :
Passive House (or Passiv Hause for the ubber nerds) refers to low energy consumption design and construction, and Net Zero design takes it a step further by creating a building/house that has zero energy consumption, or rather, creates the same amount (or sometimes more) energy than it consumes. It’s 60-70% more efficient than the average home, and the remaining 30-40% is created with renewable energy. A net zero energy home is achieved with the following:
– Super insulated floors, walls, and roof
– Air tight construction and avoid thermal bridges
– Low E Windows
– Heat recovery ventilation
– Solar energy
– Geo thermal energy
Fast forward, and another baby later, and we are caught in the rental loop. We pay rent to live in a beautiful little homestead (with a gorgeous garden!), and planned to stay here until 2016 when the owners (and dear friends) would be moving back from Thailand. Until one day the perfect location/amount of land popped up right here in Brunswick. We decided to exhaust all options ( and funds) to try and make this happen now, two years earlier than planned. Building in our hometown holds special meaning to me since my children are the fifth generation in my family to settle in Brunswick. My family history is woven through this town, in the railroad, along the river. We have made a home here, I have birthed my daughters in homes here (a block away from the very house my father was born in). Clément works as a Software Engineer in Rockville, MD and can ride his bike to the train everyday which allows us to be a one car family. We love that so many people here share the same sustainable, self reliant, eco friendly goals that we do. We shop local, eat local, and now we hope to build local and truly set roots in a town that my great grandparents also called home.
Where are we now in the process? The very beginning. Which seems to be spinning very fast considering that a few months ago we were not even planning on building for a few years, and now we are looking at having a home to move in to by the end of the summer. Currently we have two options for builders that provide net zero housing. One is a stick builder (ground up construction) and the other is modular construction. We are talking to both, crunching numbers, getting an idea of what will give us more bang for our buck and will give us the net zero energy that we are striving for. It is like we have our finger hoovering over the GO button, ready to push at any minute, and it is SO EXCITING!
That moment when the Pinterest board you titled “Dream Green Home” is about to become a reality? Yeah that.