Architecture

Family moves into first net zero Active House in the U.S.

Family moves into first net ze...
A family recently moved into a prototype Active House, which uses natural lighting and ventilation to reduce its energy consumption while still blending in with the architecture of the surrounding neighborhood
A family recently moved into a prototype Active House, which uses natural lighting and ventilation to reduce its energy consumption while still blending in with the architecture of the surrounding neighborhood
View 25 Images
The interior design also features mostly light-colored surfaces, openly-connected rooms, and glass partitions to make sure whole house can be clearly lit on most days
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The interior design also features mostly light-colored surfaces, openly-connected rooms, and glass partitions to make sure whole house can be clearly lit on most days
The Active House is a prototype home sponsored by VELUX, a Danish company that designs products to encourage the use of natural lighting, particularly skylights and windows
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The Active House is a prototype home sponsored by VELUX, a Danish company that designs products to encourage the use of natural lighting, particularly skylights and windows
Natural lighting features heavily in the Active House, with windows, skylights, and sun tunnels scattered throughout every room
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Natural lighting features heavily in the Active House, with windows, skylights, and sun tunnels scattered throughout every room
Windows that open are arranged in a straight path upwards, while the rest of the house is sealed airtight, maximizing the flow of fresh air inside
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Windows that open are arranged in a straight path upwards, while the rest of the house is sealed airtight, maximizing the flow of fresh air inside
If the Active House proves to be energy efficient in this location, the theory goes, it should work just as well in any other location in the United States
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If the Active House proves to be energy efficient in this location, the theory goes, it should work just as well in any other location in the United States
Even with all its sustainable technology and architecture, it was very important to the designers that the Active House blend in perfectly with the surrounding neighborhood
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Even with all its sustainable technology and architecture, it was very important to the designers that the Active House blend in perfectly with the surrounding neighborhood
Electricity and hot water are mostly provided by solar power as well, though a natural gas system does act as a backup when needed
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Electricity and hot water are mostly provided by solar power as well, though a natural gas system does act as a backup when needed
Natural lighting features heavily in the Active House, with windows, skylights, and sun tunnels scattered throughout every room
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Natural lighting features heavily in the Active House, with windows, skylights, and sun tunnels scattered throughout every room
The project was created to promote buildings that have a positive impact on the environment while providing a healthy and comfortable indoor climate for occupants
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The project was created to promote buildings that have a positive impact on the environment while providing a healthy and comfortable indoor climate for occupants
The majority of the building materials are recyclable, and some were repurposed from a previous structure on the same site
10/25
The majority of the building materials are recyclable, and some were repurposed from a previous structure on the same site
If the Active House proves to be energy efficient in this location, the theory goes, it should work just as well in any other location in the United States
11/25
If the Active House proves to be energy efficient in this location, the theory goes, it should work just as well in any other location in the United States
A family recently moved into a prototype Active House, which uses natural lighting and ventilation to reduce its energy consumption
12/25
A family recently moved into a prototype Active House, which uses natural lighting and ventilation to reduce its energy consumption
The Active House project was created to promote buildings that have a positive impact on the environment while providing a healthy and comfortable indoor climate for occupants
13/25
The Active House project was created to promote buildings that have a positive impact on the environment while providing a healthy and comfortable indoor climate for occupants
Natural lighting features heavily in the Active House, with windows, skylights, and sun tunnels scattered throughout every room
14/25
Natural lighting features heavily in the Active House, with windows, skylights, and sun tunnels scattered throughout every room
The Active House is a prototype home sponsored by VELUX, a Danish company that designs products to encourage the use of natural lighting, particularly skylights and windows
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The Active House is a prototype home sponsored by VELUX, a Danish company that designs products to encourage the use of natural lighting, particularly skylights and windows
It was very important to the designers that the Active House blend in perfectly with the surrounding neighborhood
16/25
It was very important to the designers that the Active House blend in perfectly with the surrounding neighborhood
Electricity and hot water are mostly provided by solar power as well, though a natural gas system does act as a backup when needed
17/25
Electricity and hot water are mostly provided by solar power as well, though a natural gas system does act as a backup when needed
Maintaining a comfortable temperature also plays a large factor in conserving energy, which is why the Active House's construction centers around natural ventilation and improved insulation
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Maintaining a comfortable temperature also plays a large factor in conserving energy, which is why the Active House's construction centers around natural ventilation and improved insulation
A family recently moved into a prototype Active House, which uses natural lighting and ventilation to reduce its energy consumption while still blending in with the architecture of the surrounding neighborhood
19/25
A family recently moved into a prototype Active House, which uses natural lighting and ventilation to reduce its energy consumption while still blending in with the architecture of the surrounding neighborhood
Even with all the sustainable technology and architecture, it was very important to the designers that the Active House blend in perfectly with the surrounding neighborhood
20/25
Even with all the sustainable technology and architecture, it was very important to the designers that the Active House blend in perfectly with the surrounding neighborhood
The interior design features mostly light-colored surfaces, openly connected rooms, and glass partitions to make sure whole house can be clearly lit on most days
21/25
The interior design features mostly light-colored surfaces, openly connected rooms, and glass partitions to make sure whole house can be clearly lit on most days
The Active House's construction centers around natural ventilation and improved insulation
22/25
The Active House's construction centers around natural ventilation and improved insulation
Natural lighting features heavily in the Active House, with windows, skylights, and sun tunnels scattered throughout every room
23/25
Natural lighting features heavily in the Active House, with windows, skylights, and sun tunnels scattered throughout every room
The Active House project was created to promote buildings that have a positive impact on the environment while providing a healthy and comfortable indoor climate for occupants
24/25
The Active House project was created to promote buildings that have a positive impact on the environment while providing a healthy and comfortable indoor climate for occupants
The Active House is a prototype home sponsored by VELUX, a Danish company that designs products to encourage the use of natural lighting, particularly skylights and windows
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The Active House is a prototype home sponsored by VELUX, a Danish company that designs products to encourage the use of natural lighting, particularly skylights and windows
View gallery - 25 images

We've seen plenty of impressive net zero houses in the past, from the motion-controlled CHIP House in California to the budget-priced Sosoljip in South Korea. But one issue that seems predominant in most energy-neutral homes is that they typically take on a design that doesn't suit many suburban areas. That may soon change though with the first Active House, which uses natural lighting and ventilation to reduce its energy consumption while still blending in with the architecture of the surrounding neighborhood.

The Active House is a prototype home sponsored by VELUX, a Danish company that designs products to encourage the use of natural lighting, particularly skylights and windows. The project was created to promote buildings that have a positive impact on the environment while providing a healthy and comfortable indoor climate for occupants. A handful of other prototype Active Houses following these same standards have also been constructed all over Europe.

Project leaders chose Webster Grove, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, as the building site for it's first U.S. construction project because it's an area that receives all climate extremes, from ice-cold winters to sweltering hot summers. If the house proves to be energy efficient in this location, the theory goes, it should work just as well in any other location in the United States.

Natural lighting features heavily in the Active House, with windows, skylights, and sun tunnels scattered throughout every room
Natural lighting features heavily in the Active House, with windows, skylights, and sun tunnels scattered throughout every room

Natural lighting features heavily in the Active House, with windows, skylights, and sun tunnels scattered throughout every room. The interior design also features mostly light-colored surfaces, openly-connected rooms, and glass partitions to make sure whole house can be clearly lit on most days. Electricity and hot water are mostly provided by solar power as well, though a natural gas system does act as a backup when needed.

Maintaining a comfortable temperature also plays a large part in conserving energy, which is why the Active House's construction centers around natural ventilation and improved insulation. Windows that open are arranged in a straight path upwards, while the rest of the house is sealed airtight, maximizing the flow of fresh air inside. The outside walls also incorporate insulated panels and double-paned windows to reduce the amount of heat transfer, and the roof is covered in solar-reflective tiles to deflect sunlight and heat.

The Active House is a prototype home sponsored by VELUX, a Danish company that designs products to encourage the use of natural lighting, particularly skylights and windows
The Active House is a prototype home sponsored by VELUX, a Danish company that designs products to encourage the use of natural lighting, particularly skylights and windows

Best of all, most of the windows and blinds are rigged to an automated system to control the amount of heat, light, and fresh air that enters the home. Residents can even program them to open and close at certain times of the day, month, or even year, ensuring they're using natural energy as much as possible. The house does still have heating and air conditioning equipment as well – all rated for high energy efficiency of course – but the house's temperature-regulating construction should ensure they aren't used as much.

Finally, the majority of the building materials are recyclable, and some were repurposed from a previous structure on the same site. Altogether, the Active House simultaneously meets or exceeds the requirements for the ANSI-700 National Green Building Standard, Energy Star, Builder’s Challenge, and Indoor Air and Water Sense Programs, among others.

Even with all the sustainable technology and architecture, it was very important to the designers that the Active House blend in perfectly with the surrounding neighborhood
Even with all the sustainable technology and architecture, it was very important to the designers that the Active House blend in perfectly with the surrounding neighborhood

Even with all its sustainable technology and architecture, it was very important to the designers that the Active House blend in perfectly with the surrounding neighborhood. The aesthetics of many net zero homes are usually influenced by energy efficiency above all else, which may lead to some unique designs, but also means they have to be constructed outside of a typical residential area. By constructing a house that fits in almost seamlessly with local architecture, the project leaders hope more areas will open up to the idea of incorporating net zero practices in future housing projects.

For all it's green innovations though, what good is a house without someone living there? The Smith family – consisting of David, Thuy, and their daughter, Cameron – contacted the Active House project leaders when they decided to build a new home and worked closely with the designers on its layout. After almost a year of construction, they finally moved into their new home in late 2012 and will allow the University of Missouri’s Midwest Energy Efficiency Research Consortium to collect data on the house's energy usage during their first year there.

Source: Active House

We've seen plenty of impressive net zero houses in the past, from the motion-controlled CHIP House in California to the budget-priced Sosoljip in South Korea. But one issue that seems predominant in most energy-neutral homes is that they typically take on a design that doesn't suit many suburban areas. That may soon change though with the first Active House, which uses natural lighting and ventilation to reduce its energy consumption while still blending in with the architecture of the surrounding neighborhood.

The Active House is a prototype home sponsored by VELUX, a Danish company that designs products to encourage the use of natural lighting, particularly skylights and windows. The project was created to promote buildings that have a positive impact on the environment while providing a healthy and comfortable indoor climate for occupants. A handful of other prototype Active Houses following these same standards have also been constructed all over Europe.

Project leaders chose Webster Grove, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, as the building site for it's first U.S. construction project because it's an area that receives all climate extremes, from ice-cold winters to sweltering hot summers. If the house proves to be energy efficient in this location, the theory goes, it should work just as well in any other location in the United States.

Natural lighting features heavily in the Active House, with windows, skylights, and sun tunnels scattered throughout every room
Natural lighting features heavily in the Active House, with windows, skylights, and sun tunnels scattered throughout every room

Natural lighting features heavily in the Active House, with windows, skylights, and sun tunnels scattered throughout every room. The interior design also features mostly light-colored surfaces, openly-connected rooms, and glass partitions to make sure whole house can be clearly lit on most days. Electricity and hot water are mostly provided by solar power as well, though a natural gas system does act as a backup when needed.

Maintaining a comfortable temperature also plays a large part in conserving energy, which is why the Active House's construction centers around natural ventilation and improved insulation. Windows that open are arranged in a straight path upwards, while the rest of the house is sealed airtight, maximizing the flow of fresh air inside. The outside walls also incorporate insulated panels and double-paned windows to reduce the amount of heat transfer, and the roof is covered in solar-reflective tiles to deflect sunlight and heat.

The Active House is a prototype home sponsored by VELUX, a Danish company that designs products to encourage the use of natural lighting, particularly skylights and windows
The Active House is a prototype home sponsored by VELUX, a Danish company that designs products to encourage the use of natural lighting, particularly skylights and windows

Best of all, most of the windows and blinds are rigged to an automated system to control the amount of heat, light, and fresh air that enters the home. Residents can even program them to open and close at certain times of the day, month, or even year, ensuring they're using natural energy as much as possible. The house does still have heating and air conditioning equipment as well – all rated for high energy efficiency of course – but the house's temperature-regulating construction should ensure they aren't used as much.

Finally, the majority of the building materials are recyclable, and some were repurposed from a previous structure on the same site. Altogether, the Active House simultaneously meets or exceeds the requirements for the ANSI-700 National Green Building Standard, Energy Star, Builder’s Challenge, and Indoor Air and Water Sense Programs, among others.

Even with all the sustainable technology and architecture, it was very important to the designers that the Active House blend in perfectly with the surrounding neighborhood
Even with all the sustainable technology and architecture, it was very important to the designers that the Active House blend in perfectly with the surrounding neighborhood

Even with all its sustainable technology and architecture, it was very important to the designers that the Active House blend in perfectly with the surrounding neighborhood. The aesthetics of many net zero homes are usually influenced by energy efficiency above all else, which may lead to some unique designs, but also means they have to be constructed outside of a typical residential area. By constructing a house that fits in almost seamlessly with local architecture, the project leaders hope more areas will open up to the idea of incorporating net zero practices in future housing projects.

For all it's green innovations though, what good is a house without someone living there? The Smith family – consisting of David, Thuy, and their daughter, Cameron – contacted the Active House project leaders when they decided to build a new home and worked closely with the designers on its layout. After almost a year of construction, they finally moved into their new home in late 2012 and will allow the University of Missouri’s Midwest Energy Efficiency Research Consortium to collect data on the house's energy usage during their first year there.

Source: Active House

View gallery - 25 images
20 comments
Tim McNabb
I believe this is the architect for this project here in Missouri:
http://jeffdayllc.com/active-house-usa-webster-groves-mo/
Jaroslaw Filiochowski
"Net zero"... does that include construction, or just operation? I mean, it's a step in the right direction, but if you still need tons of fossil fuels to build it I wouldn't call it "net zero".
Arahant
Pretty sure its including construction, i could be wrong. If it was just operation you could just load any house with a ton of solar panels and a wind turbine.
That being said i'm not sure HOW they get to net zero but its probably explained elsewhere on the net. I think they recycle materials which is a way of offsetting the carbon that they do use or something like that.
Anyways interesting house, looks nice inside when its sunny, but im worried about when its overcast and at night time, as i did not see any light bulbs anywhere.
Spike Elex
Why is it the reporter on stories like these never list the actual cost? I mean it's one thing to get the word that a net-zero home in traditional suburban style is one thing but how about a little price knowledge to pair with it.
Bruce Ward
am i missing something; is there some benefit toward sustainability gained from having a miraculously "ugly" circa 1970's copy of a capeCoddish beach house "look" for your "zero Active House"?
Buellrider
I really like the look of this house. In fact, it looks so much nicer than most houses being put up these days. I want a house with 1 foot thick walls full of foam. I hate the way my old 1958 home seems to heat the outside because of the substandard insulation in 2x4 walls.
Lumen
Where's the fridge? Perhaps the camera angles just don't show one.
Daishi
I like the look of the natural lighting but like a lot of things I think there are some tradeoffs. Sometimes when the sun hits surfaces (like a TV) there is a glare and it can be hard to see. Even driven towards the sun in your car? That can be experienced in a house with a lot of windows as well.
The other point is that unnatural lighting technologies have come a long way recently between CFL and now LED. Depending on what area of the world you live in heating and cooling the house is probably much more expensive than lighting using modern technologies. Skylights are typically higher maintenance and cost than standard roofing and while it may have held true that they offered some cost savings in the past when incandescent lighting was the norm I'm skeptic that this is still the case.
The rooms with all the huge floor to ceiling windows are also sources of heat/cooling loss that party offset some of the work that the upgraded insulation is doing.
@Buellrider, is what kind of siding is on your 1958 home? They make better insulation these days but if you don't want to replace it you can put a layer of insulation/foam board down underneath new vinyl siding. It doesn't need to be a foot thick to be effective. Newer windows are a lot more efficient too. If you have older single pane windows still this is probably your bigger source of heat loss.
Noel Frothingham
Spike, the construction price isn't listed because it isn't relevant to future units. The economies of scale will inevitably lower the cost of materials and labor of future units.
christopher
That's not an electric car in the garage, and even if it was - there's no excess juice to charge it. "Net Zero" already exists, and it's hippies enjoying their countryside farms, not suit-wielding commuters.