Rocket Scientists Need Not Apply

Posted by Macie Schreibman on September 21, 2011
Rocket Scientists Need Not Apply

If you think the key to building a net-zero home is about the stuff you use to build it, you should have a conversation with Ann Edminster. Author of the book, “Energy Free – Homes for a Small Planet,” Ann is a firm believer that building net-zero energy homes is about compiling a team of workers with the same vision. “It’s not so much about the stuff, rather how we use it,” she says.   

Additionally, Ann believes that change can happen, and that architecture and home design offer plenty of opportunities to increase the number of potential net-zero homes being built. I learned all of this and more while listening to Ann’s lecture at the Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility offices last night in San Francisco, California. And I knew from the very first slide of her presentation, which stated, “Hint: This isn’t rocket science,” that my interest was going to be kept.

Although we only had time for a fly-by of all the material she covers in her book, Ann did a great job of presenting the net-zero topic as a hopeful one. Although, like most energy efficiency projects, a lot of the outcome of these jobs is reliant upon the occupants’ behavior (As Ann passed on, “There are no net-zero homes, only net-zero occupants). In this vein, Ann also shared several ways for architects and contractors to give information to their clients and present them first with the idea of energy efficiency, and second with the rest of the project. “If designers bring up energy efficiency and comfort as part of the project priorities and goals, clients will always agree that these are things they want,” Ann says. Next, designers and contractors need to ensure these items stay in the plan, and hold their clients responsible for the priorities that they’ve discussed.

Okay, so it may be easier said than done. But it is true that commitment to net-zero energy takes a team of committed people—designers, contractors, homeowners. Then, it’s a matter of simple systems and procedures. Net-zero homes may not be the easiest thing to achieve, and it’s not going to happen overnight, but there’s one thing Ann’s sure of (and I couldn’t agree more): Zero net energy is a recessive gene. “It needs both of its parents—in this case design and construction—or it won’t happen.”  

So, what are you doing to help build better homes?

Ann Edminster is owner and principal of Design AVEnues, a green building consulting firm. You can download her entire presentation as a PDF here.

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