Team Germany won DOE’s solar decatholon again, largely on the shoulders of the points it scored for generated surplus energy. Right behind in second place was the University of Illinois-Champaign Urbana (oskee wow wow, my alma mater) with a more more traditional looking home. The simple and elegant U of I design showed that home can look like what we’re all used to–not something out of the Jetsons–and still be incredibly energy-efficient and even net energy producers. You can build homes that ooze comfort just like Grandma’s home but that can be heated, cooled, and power for next to nothing.
Actually, this is no surprise on the new construction side. We’ve been able to do that for years. It’s generally more difficult to get to net-zero in existing homes. But there is a lot that can be done to make existing homes much more comfortable and use less than half the energy they’re using now. It ain’t rocket science–but it is building science, and you’ve got to choose wisely to get there.