Chicago Net-Zero House is "Clean-Lined and Elegant"


All too often, houses that are really green are not architectural gems, and vice versa. Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin visits Michael Yannell's Net Zero house, designed by Jonathan Boyer of Farr Associates. He approves, noting:

The Yannell House, which has four bedrooms, two bathrooms and three occupants (the owner and his two cats), is more than a mere technical feat. Clean-lined outside and light-filled within, it issues an elegant rebuttal to the supersize, decoration-slathered McMansions that exemplify the pre-crash age of excess.


A Net-Zero (Zero Carbon in the UK) house is defined as one that, in its annual operation, produces as much energy as it consumes, so, for example, it can be putting excess energy into the electrical grid in the daytime and taking it back at night. But there is more to it than that; as Kamin says,

"A well-designed net zero house should be about more than slapping a huge array of photovoltaic panels on a roof."

Blair Kamin is one of the best writers about architecture around, and all I can do is quote him:


Its exuberant "butterfly" roof folds upward with sculptural verve, even as it cleverly hides the house's 48 photovoltaic panels and doubles as a rainwater collector. Coming closer, you encounter a delicate "rain screen" facade (left), consisting of an outer layer of warm cedar panels and cool, fiber-cement board panels. An inner layer provides thermal insulation. The rain screen seems to breathe like a skin.

"Environmental expressionism," Boyer calls it.


Some tech details: Solar systems are projected to generate 18,000 kWr per year, exceeding projected energy use by 40%. Ground source heat pumps provide heating and cooling; gray water recovery system supplies toilets.

Kamin concludes:

This net zero house is about more than generating surplus energy. It's about offering a model for a new way of building -- and living.

More in Chicago Tribune; Also check out the Slideshow.
More on Net Zero:
The Net-Zero Energy Now House is Really Boring.
Bright Built Barn is Net-Zero Energy
GE Introduces Green Gizmo Home

More Blair Kamin in TreeHugger:

Blair Kamin: Historic preservation and green architecture: friends or foes?
National Mall is Inspired By Chicago Exhibition

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