Designboom shows the latest building designed to the ZEB (Zero Energy Building) standard, perhaps the toughest and most interesting standard in the world. It is a demonstration project, a 2,200 square foot single family house in Norway designed by Snøhetta.
How tough is this standard? By comparison, the Passivhaus standard sets a limit on how much energy a building can use, but doesn't care what you build it out of, so many of them are full of foam insulation; ZEB takes the embodied energy of all the materials into account and has to generate "more energy than what was used for the production of building materials, its construction, operation and disposal." As I noted in a post on PowerHouse Kjørbo, (also designed by Snøhetta) this standard would have a rough time in America.
In America, the plastics industry would go crazy over a standard like this; In each square foot of R-20 insulation, cellulose insulation embodies 600 BTU, Mineral wool 2,980 BTU, and Expanded polystyrene is 18,000 BTU (according to Martin Holladay at the GBA) The concrete industry, responsible for 5% of the CO2 emitted in the world, would be making cement overshoes.
In fact it makes a lot of sense to look at the whole picture, and to use materials with the lowest possible carbon footprint. The house "utilizes passive and active strategies to accomplish the desired performance aims, while simultaneously focusing on emotive comfort and sense of well being to maintain the non-quantifiable qualities of a home."
It not only generates enough energy to power the house and offset the embodied energy of the materials and construction phase, but it is designed to power an electric car for a minimum of 12,500 miles per year.
I would love to see someone try this in North America, this is a real challenge. Like this house, it would probably be made with a lot of wood, recycled materials, cellulose insulation, concrete and foam free and with a serious load of photovoltaics on the roof.
More images at Designboom.
The house is under construction now, and is supposed to open September 17, 2014.