Study watches a family in a net zero home for a year to determine challenges

net zero

DAVIS, calif. — There are no flying cars in Susan O’Hara and Stuart Bennett’s garage, nor robot servants waiting to fetch their slippers and a martini when they arrive home.

Here’s what the ultramodern house with the shed-style roof lines and lapstrake (overlapping planks) siding in this central California town has that you won’t find in a subdivision near you:

• Reclaimed wood for all the trim and furniture, as well as reclaimed nails. Even the concrete is sustainable. The foundation and polished-concrete floors contain pozzolan, which comes from volcanic ash and is used to reduce the amount of Portland cement needed. Making Portland cement requires lots of heat, and thus produces a considerable amount of carbon dioxide.

• This being drought-stricken California, the house is designed with the state’s high environmental protection and water- preservation standards in mind. Runoff water goes into a bioswale on the property, avoiding sewers that eventually empty into the Sacramento River. The collected runoff is used to water plants in the yard, saving fresh water in this drought-ravaged state.

• The house gets all its power from the sun, but remains connected to the grid. In a pinch, an electric car parked in their garage can power the house.

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