Magazine article Alternatives Journal

Bringing Home Net Zero

Magazine article Alternatives Journal

Bringing Home Net Zero

Article excerpt

FOR MICHAEL BROWN, a 27-year-old sustainable energy engineering master's student at Carleton University, a fourth-year design project laid the foundation of a life-changing opportunity. Over the last few years, his project has morphed into a collaboration with about 100 students and faculty members from Carleton, Queen's University and Algonquin College to design and construct Echo, a futuristic, net-zero-energy suburban house.

The two-part, 970-[foot.sup.2] modular structure relies on solar photovoltaic panels to create electricity, thermal technology to store and deploy heat from the sun, and vacuum insulation panels to seal the building envelope. While the house was mostly built In Perth, Ontario, a core group of project contributors (aka Team Ontario) are now taking apart and reassembling Echo in Irvine, California, where it will compete against 19 other entries--including another Canadian team from the University of Calgary--in the 6" biennial Solar Decathlon from October 3 to 13. Competing houses are scored in 10 different categories, including architecture, engineering, affordability and market appeal, as well as energy production.

Brown's main task during the ramp-up is to evaluate Echo's annual energy consumption and help determine heating and cooling needs. "If we produce more energy than we consume over the course of the competition," says Brown, "I'll walk away happy."

A\J: How did Echo become so elaborate?

Michael Brown: After we finished our undergrad, a couple of us really wanted to keep going with the Solar Decathlon project. …

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