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Zoka Zola's Zero-Energy House
by Katy Purviance on 07/03/08 @ 12:59:58 pm
Categories: I love this building | 829 words | 9338 views

Zero Energy House

The dining terrace connects the passer-by to the garden and canopy tree in it. The building’s façades are draped with ivy. Windows on both the North and South walls give the building a porous feel.
A layer of mosses, herbs, and grasses cover the building’s roofs. The accessible green roofs encourage bio-diversity and absorb water runoff, while insulating the interior and protecting the roof from thermal shock and ultra violet deterioration.

We divided the house into four zones. Bathrooms are stacked and ventilated as an isolated area of higher moisture and heat. The kitchen is ventilated as an isolated area of higher moisture, heat, and odor. The living and dining spaces are located on the west side of the building where one can enjoy the last rays of the evening sun after work. The detached Multi-Use space is employed as part of the garden and is occasionally heated and cooled.

Zero Energy House

In the summer, the operable windows allow cross ventilation. The tree in the south garden gives beauty and summer shade.

In the winter, warm sunlight floods the shallow rooms through large south-facing windows. These windows provide a multitude of views to the outdoors.

Active systems: Electricity generating

The natural partnership of an auroturbine and photovoltaic panels will provide power for this building. We will provide structure and infrastructure for the future installation of these two renewable resources, which will be installed in two to three years.


The auroturbine is an innovative wind-electric generator designed by Bill Becker that is ideal fo this residential urban setting.

It works well with the variable direction and turbulent winds of Chicago, generating 1500 watts at 30mph. It is self-regulating and generates power in wind speeds between 3mpg and 120 mph. The auroturbine will be placed with its axis running north/south, to harness prevaling winds.

It uses safe high-torque / low speed rotation that prevents machine “runaways". Snow and ice are slid out of the turbines instead of propelled. This turbine is quiet because of its sinuous movement.

Since its first installation, the auroturbine has a record of zero animal deaths.

The auroturbine will cost $7,500. This will decrease with time as its popularity increases. We will wait two years for a more advanced and affordable model.

Photovoltaic (PV) Panels:

PV panels are used in conjunction with the auroturbine because sunshine and wind have complientary peak periods, i.e., wind is strongest during the months when sunshine is often weakest and vice versa.

Energy from the sun is the most abundant energy source on the planet. The photovoltaic process converts solar energy directly into electricity. A PV cell consists of two or more thin layers of semi-conducting silicon. When the silicon is exposed to light, electrical charges are generated and this can be conducted away as direct current. Multiple cells are connected together and encapuslated to form a panel.

PV equipment has no moving parts and as a result requires minimal maintenance. It generates electricity without emitting harmful gases, and its operation is virtually silent. The photovoltaic system will cost $5,000.

We will provide the structure to install the PV panels at their optimum working angle of 55 degrees.
south elevation

Active systems: Water heating and cooling

Both the geothermal system and solar-heat panels will be installed to head and cool the house.

Geothermal System:

The geothermal system will provide the main source of heating and cooling for this house. Installation involves six fluid-filled loops embedded into 4-inch diameter holes in the earth. These holes are drilled to the bedrock.

Closed loops utilize polyethylene piping buried or drilled into the ground filled with a water/anti-freeze solution. The loop fluid circulating in this closed piping system absorbs heat or rejects heat into the surrounding earth.

During the heating process, warmer temperatures in the earth are absorbed and transferred to the loop fluid. The heat in the fluid is used for a radiant floor heating system.

During the cooling process, warmer temperatures in the home are removed and transferred to the loop fluid. The heat in the fluid is deposited into the earth while the fluid is cooled by the cold earth temperature. Closed loops are virtually maintenance free.

The geothermal system will cost $12,000 more than conventional gas furnace heating but monthly utility bill savings are calculated to be greater than the monthly mortgage payment for this portion of construction costs.

Solar-Heat Panels:

The solar heat panels will work in unison with geothermal heating to provide hot water for baths, showers, cleaning dishes, laundry, and radiant floor heating.

Solar collectors trap the sun’s heat under a glass cover. The system switches on when the collector is hotter than the solar storage tank. Water is heated as it is pumped through copper tubes in the collector. A heat exchanger transfers this heat into a storage tank. The water in this tank can be used for daily hot water needs.

The solar-heat system will cost $10,000, but the State of Illinois will give a 50% rebate for its installation.

Check it out

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Know of some others I can add here? Let me know. Have you already visited some of these places...or planning on it? Let me know and I will feature your story and your photos here!

I am starting a new kind of architecture school. Unlike most architecture schools, you wouldn't have to submit GRE scores or good grades or letters of recommendation. You wouldn't have to put the rest of your life on hold for 3 to 5 years. You wouldn't have to accrue tens of thousands of dollars in debt. At my architecture school, anyone could come for a few weeks and learn how to build a house with their own two hands. My teachers would take skills and concepts from some of these other workshops I've listed above... except classes would be held year-round to make it easy to fit into your schedule. I would have a number of different campuses around the country that would teach building designs appropriate to the local climate. And I need your help. Can you donate land for a campus? Can you dotate books for a library? Can you teach a workshop? Can you provide start-up capital? Let me know.

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