The Potential of Zero

Posted by Dan Smith on September 06, 2013
The Potential of Zero
The Clover Park Zero Energy House

This is a short story about a little house in a parking lot and the educational potential of 960 square feet. The project was conceived and created to give students a place for blower door training and ended up a fully integrated green structure that was dedicated during the grand opening ceremony by Washington State Governor Jay Inslee. 

The Clover Park Zero Energy House was an idea to help augment air leakage training in the Sustainable Building Science Program at Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood Washington. From there the educational model grew a bit. Why don’t we add solar? We could add solar hot water. How about radiant hydronics, heat recovery ventilator, low VOC finishes, water catchment, energy monitoring, and while we are at it lets do a vegetable garden that will help feed the campus daycare? The possibilities grew rather quickly. 
The final result is the first educational zero energy structure in Washington to have a totally transparent systems approach to green building and can be viewed on the web here. Every working system of the house can be examined and experienced. The purpose driven project has leveraged cutting edge technologies to display green building practices and incorporate systems integrated theory into an educational building that is available to campus and the community. It is being used by several groups including the Clover Park USGBC Student Group, the Clover Park Sustainability Committee, and will be the venue for an upcoming Green Community Lecture Series.  
Everyone that enters the building is taken back by the open feeling, comfortable space, and the fact that it produces more energy than it uses. They all want a tour, from the conditioned crawl space to the attic HRV and the overheat protection on the solar thermal. People leave with a sense for the potential of zero. The potential of zero energy that is, and how we as individuals can make a difference when we take action collectively.  
With this in mind I would like to challenge everyone reading this article to think in terms of conservation before generation and live with a lighter footprint. The task I put before you is not the shouting of a crazed evangelist, but the quiet voice of a person concerned and hopeful of the future. Whether you do something as simple as recycling or as complex as political activism for sustainability the idea is to start. It is the combined effort of everyone that will make a difference. 
Break is over! Get started!       
Dan Smith is a Sustainable Building Sciences Instructor, Clover Park Technical College.

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