Architecture

Affordable net zero: foam in, air conditioning out

Lifethings-designed Sosoljip net-zero house (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
Lifethings-designed Sosoljip net-zero house (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
View 38 Images
Lifethings-designed Sosoljip net-zero house (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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Lifethings-designed Sosoljip net-zero house (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
The entire reinforced-concrete structure is encased in 20 cm-thick (7.9 in.) Styrofoam (Photo: Lifethings)
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The entire reinforced-concrete structure is encased in 20 cm-thick (7.9 in.) Styrofoam (Photo: Lifethings)
That insulation topped the hierarchy of properties precluded shingle or panel exterior surface finishing (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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That insulation topped the hierarchy of properties precluded shingle or panel exterior surface finishing (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
The house which now stands at a fishing village four hours to the south of Seoul (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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The house which now stands at a fishing village four hours to the south of Seoul (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
Upon completion, Dr. Jung had spent US$284,000 on Sosoljip (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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Upon completion, Dr. Jung had spent US$284,000 on Sosoljip (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
That insulation topped the hierarchy of properties precluded shingle or panel exterior surface finishing (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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That insulation topped the hierarchy of properties precluded shingle or panel exterior surface finishing (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
The house which now stands at a fishing village four hours to the south of Seoul (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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The house which now stands at a fishing village four hours to the south of Seoul (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
Upon completion, Dr. Jung had spent US$284,000 on Sosoljip (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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Upon completion, Dr. Jung had spent US$284,000 on Sosoljip (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
The entire reinforced-concrete structure is encased in 20 cm-thick (7.9 in.) Styrofoam (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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The entire reinforced-concrete structure is encased in 20 cm-thick (7.9 in.) Styrofoam (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
The 230 sq m (2476 sq ft) Sosoljip will be shared by Dr. Jung and her parents (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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The 230 sq m (2476 sq ft) Sosoljip will be shared by Dr. Jung and her parents (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
The 230 sq m (2476 sq ft) Sosoljip will be shared by Dr. Jung and her parents (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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The 230 sq m (2476 sq ft) Sosoljip will be shared by Dr. Jung and her parents (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
Lifethings describes insulation as "the most important factor" in energy-saving design (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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Lifethings describes insulation as "the most important factor" in energy-saving design (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
The entire reinforced-concrete structure is encased in 20 cm-thick (7.9 in.) Styrofoam (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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The entire reinforced-concrete structure is encased in 20 cm-thick (7.9 in.) Styrofoam (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
Lifethings describes insulation as "the most important factor" in energy-saving design (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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Lifethings describes insulation as "the most important factor" in energy-saving design (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
The 230 sq m (2476 sq ft) Sosoljip will be shared by Dr. Jung and her parents (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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The 230 sq m (2476 sq ft) Sosoljip will be shared by Dr. Jung and her parents (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
The 230 sq m (2476 sq ft) Sosoljip will be shared by Dr. Jung and her parents (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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The 230 sq m (2476 sq ft) Sosoljip will be shared by Dr. Jung and her parents (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
Upon completion, Dr. Jung had spent US$284,000 on Sosoljip (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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Upon completion, Dr. Jung had spent US$284,000 on Sosoljip (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
The entire reinforced-concrete structure is encased in 20 cm-thick (7.9 in.) Styrofoam (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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The entire reinforced-concrete structure is encased in 20 cm-thick (7.9 in.) Styrofoam (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
Lifethings describes insulation as "the most important factor" in energy-saving design (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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Lifethings describes insulation as "the most important factor" in energy-saving design (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
The 230 sq m (2476 sq ft) Sosoljip will be shared by Dr. Jung and her parents (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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The 230 sq m (2476 sq ft) Sosoljip will be shared by Dr. Jung and her parents (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
The house is fitted with both photovoltaic and thermal solar panels (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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The house is fitted with both photovoltaic and thermal solar panels (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
The entire reinforced-concrete structure is encased in 20 cm-thick (7.9 in.) Styrofoam (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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The entire reinforced-concrete structure is encased in 20 cm-thick (7.9 in.) Styrofoam (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
The 230 sq m (2476 sq ft) Sosoljip will be shared by Dr. Jung and her parents (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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The 230 sq m (2476 sq ft) Sosoljip will be shared by Dr. Jung and her parents (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
Upon completion, Dr. Jung had spent US$284,000 on Sosoljip (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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Upon completion, Dr. Jung had spent US$284,000 on Sosoljip (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
The house is fitted with both photovoltaic and thermal solar panels (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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The house is fitted with both photovoltaic and thermal solar panels (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
That insulation topped the hierarchy of properties precluded shingle or panel exterior surface finishing (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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That insulation topped the hierarchy of properties precluded shingle or panel exterior surface finishing (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
The 230 sq m (2476 sq ft) Sosoljip will be shared by Dr. Jung and her parents (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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The 230 sq m (2476 sq ft) Sosoljip will be shared by Dr. Jung and her parents (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
The house is fitted with both photovoltaic and thermal solar panels (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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The house is fitted with both photovoltaic and thermal solar panels (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
The house which now stands at a fishing village four hours to the south of Seoul (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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The house which now stands at a fishing village four hours to the south of Seoul (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
The house which now stands at a fishing village four hours to the south of Seoul (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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The house which now stands at a fishing village four hours to the south of Seoul (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
That insulation topped the hierarchy of properties precluded shingle or panel exterior surface finishing (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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That insulation topped the hierarchy of properties precluded shingle or panel exterior surface finishing (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
Upon completion, Dr. Jung had spent US$284,000 on Sosoljip (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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Upon completion, Dr. Jung had spent US$284,000 on Sosoljip (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
That insulation topped the hierarchy of properties precluded shingle or panel exterior surface finishing (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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That insulation topped the hierarchy of properties precluded shingle or panel exterior surface finishing (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
The house which now stands at a fishing village four hours to the south of Seoul (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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The house which now stands at a fishing village four hours to the south of Seoul (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
The house which now stands at a fishing village four hours to the south of Seoul (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
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The house which now stands at a fishing village four hours to the south of Seoul (Photo: Kyungsub Shin)
Division of the interior (Image: Lifethings)
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Division of the interior (Image: Lifethings)
The logic behind the building's massing (Image: Lifethings)
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The logic behind the building's massing (Image: Lifethings)
The arrangement in section (Image: Lifethings)
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The arrangement in section (Image: Lifethings)

By prioritizing energy minimization, and taking a pragmatic approach to materials and insulation, client Dr. Jung Soik and architect Yang Soo-in of Lifethings were able to construct a net zero energy house, or one that produces more energy than it uses, on a reasonable (if not meager) budget. Upon completion, Dr. Jung had spent US$284,000 on Sosoljip, the house which now stands at a fishing village four hours to the south of Seoul, South Korea.

According to Lifethings, Dr. Jung first became interested in self-sufficiency while studying in Milan, when a drivers strike to protest the price of oil made fresh produce hard to come by. Pondering the "vulnerability" of the support systems and supply lines that grease the wheels of society, Dr. Jung began to think about self-sufficient communities. Sosoljip, then, was a first practical step towards just such a community; and Lifethings was commissioned to design it.

"The client and the architect wanted Sosoljip to be based on common sense in its design, construction, and budget," Lifethings writes. The sensible budget was not so much borne out of necessity, but a proof of concept that sensible, net zero design needn't be prohibitively expensive.

Lifethings first priority in designing the house was energy minimization, with a particular focus on insulation – "the most important factor." To this end, the entire reinforced-concrete structure is encased in 20 cm-thick (7.9 in.) Styrofoam, a dense brand of polystyrene foam, the generic insulating properties of which make the material a popular choice for disposal coffee cups - or used to.

That insulation topped the hierarchy of properties precluded shingle or panel exterior surface finishing, since its installation would inevitably damage and perhaps compromise the performance of the insulation itself. Instead the architect turned to polyurea spray which forms a relatively tough, waterproof surface. Windows are kept to a sensible proportion of the surface area so as not to undo the good work done by the insulation.

The house is fitted with both photovoltaic and thermal solar panels, with a wood-burning stove for back-up. The house does without mechanized air conditioning. The on-site renewables lack the heft to run it, and in any case, Lifethings writes, "the client will gladly wear sweaters in the winter and sweat a little in the summer, which is only natural." The 230 sq m (2476 sq ft) Sosoljip will be shared by Dr. Jung and her parents, and includes both separate and shared living spaces for both.

Source: Lifethings, via Arch Daily

16 comments
BeWalt
Great project, I'd give it four out of five stars. They will find that they need deployable shades of some sort outside the south-facing windows, to further reduce incoming radiation in the summer. Every degree matters when the building has no active A/C. "Passive Houses" like this are the way to go.
Dan Marsh
I think the overhangs and depth of the window reveals would provide enough solar blinding without having to have actual solar blinds which would have increased the cost. I think the build cost has been kept low thanks to the simplicity of it, even though concrete formwork is expensive.
The Skud
I hope no wind-blown sparks hit that foam, say, from a sustainable tree prunings BBQ for example. Still sounds very expensive to me, a little architectural pre-design work could have made most of those concrete shapes virtually modular, therefore pre-cast slabs would save cost.
Gearhead
A solar passive house with no eaves? Insulation is important sure, but shading your walls and windows blocks a massive amount of heat before it needs to be insulated against. Also, while we are trying to save energy, anyone figure how much embodied energy is in the concrete and polystyrene? Also curious about the labour component of the build price, & how that changes from South Korea to the US or Australia? Still, I think its a good addition to the ongoing dialogue about how we build our houses & how we can build them better.
James Byrne
I'd be interested to see this house modeled in the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP) to see how it preforms. Also while the house does not have air-conditioning it would require some kind of ventilation system. Living in an airtight building like this without a proper ventilation strategy in place is never a good idea and is potentially dangerous to your health.
davemv
Styrofoam is a fantastic insulation. I used it extensively on my own passive solar house; however, the manufacturers have yet to address the issue of insects in applied foam. The foam provides ideal housing for a number of species, including ant and termites, and they are quick to chew into it and build extensive housing. Given my own experience I would recommend the owner (and architect) monitor the foam on an ongoing basis. The insects are often hard to find at first but over time will compromise the house in many ways.
Bruce H. Anderson
Sandwich concrete panels have been around for a while, so this is nothing new. One benefit they offer is thermal mass on the inside, which helps regulate temperature. Styrofoam squeaks, and so minor shifts in the building (moreso in residential than in industrial/commercial construction) can set off sounds that make a woodpecker think there is food there. A pre-cast panel does not need paint, but it helps the aesthetics.
Bob
Nice design but I would have fears about the out-gassing of all that plastic along with the possibility of a fire and the very toxic smoke it would produce. Also, what sort of UV protection did they use that could last the lifetime of the house. Another consideration would be the radon, humidity and possible mold that could accumulate in such a tight building.
Dekarate
Great - make a zero footprint house using one of the hated plastics on earth: styrofoam. No recycle ability (eventually house will need to be demolished). Made of styrene as possible carcinogen. 57 chemical by-products in its creation, including hydroflourocarbons, which are quite as bad as CFCs, but not great. etc.
Edouin
@davemv. Correct! Or as they say in California - Bazinga! Such a house would not last one season here in Canada. Winter/summer and freeze/thaw cycles would turn this home into a tinderbox in no time at all. Giant Carpenter Ants would have a field-day (pardon the pun!) and there is no shortage of those buggers in Alberta! Now, perhaps if the walls were Pre-fabricated with wood exteriors (all 6 sides) prior to installation, there might be some saving there. But the roof MUST have a slope, there MUST be Eves and Soffets to allow air to circulate under the roof and above living areas to remove access heat and allow the cold to "temper" above the living area insulation. As well, the foundation, while still concrete, can be slightly "over-sized" to allow for thicker "foam" built walls - again sheathed in wood or some other stiff water-repellant material. Air conditioning many not be required if a decent heat-pump were installed. A Geo-thermal system would be best, I think. Sure, it's OK to sweat a bit in summer and put on an extra sweater in the winter, but that is not the optimal way to live in this modern world. Too many people are inured to such decadent (medieval) ways of living. Give me a heater and Air conditioner, and I will go to my grave in comfort!
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