The world is shifting its output to cater for new technology that reduces the carbon footprint that once powered the globe entirely. A series of industrial revolutions have set out a predictable path, leading to the need for zero carbon emissions to be the main goal that governments in every nation are looking to achieve.
It’s not just producing our energy with fossil fuels is the issue – it’s everything powered by it. That’s transport, aviation, electricity and so many more invisible yet fundamental processes that go into sustaining our current way of life. Homes are also on the agenda – the rise of net-zero homes is causing a storm in the next wave of eco-friendly action as it supports the cause by changing perceptions on fundamental living.
Net zero homes operate on the grid and look like any other home, yet there’s a fundamental difference in how they maintain themselves. As well as being energy-optimised through air-tight, well-insulated building blocks, they are constructed to produce renewable energy.
In fact, they can produce enough renewable energy to sustain themselves for the entire year – that means it pays for itself without the need for any other sort of energy that’ll cause a drain on fossil fuel consumption. That’s all the energy used to power the electricity, cooking facilities and heaters going back into fuelling the house. Of course, if you happen to have a large household or use up a considerable amount of energy, you can’t be totally emission-free as you’re going to have to supplement the renewable energy created by the home.
The Benefits of Net Zero Homes
Net zero homes don’t have to be industrial-looking – in fact, they’re some of the most innovatively designed houses out there. Giving architects a playground for their imagination, there’s no glass ceiling when it comes to innovation. They really have to be beautiful in design for demand to increase.
This home in Oakland Hills, California, is quite the spectacle – and it’s a net zero home. Featuring state-of-the-art sustainable technologies, its used eco-friendly materials to ground the foundations and the structure throughout.
And demand for housing like this is rising – the market for such houses is actually bringing elements of the build into the mainstream. After all, sustainable technology is still relatively expensive. Passive housing is a popular alternative as it offers a middle ground for budding environmentalists with shallower pockets.
Passive housing is similar to net zero housing in the aim of reducing carbon emissions. The only different is, passive homes simply retain their energy while net zero homes take it a step further, to retain and renew their energy. Seen as a smaller step to sustainability than net zero homes, it’s a popular and positive step in the right direction.
Net zero homes – as they’re eco-friendly in nature – take resources from the local area, driving up demand for local resource and adding money into the economy.
What’s more, you could be saving money. With a house that sustains itself, you won’t need to rely on energy providers nearly as much. You’ll be looking at an 80-90% drop in dependency for a passive home and even more of a decrease with a net zero home.
A healthy house isn’t even the best part. You get to live a healthier lifestyle too. Fresh air circulation and ventilation reduces allergens pollutants to make it safer in your home. With more sturdy insulation, you’ll find that your house stays at steady temperatures (all with minimal involvement). And for peace of mind, you insulate your environment from outdoor noise.
When can we see Net Zero Homes go Mainstream?
Well in the UK, the retail industry has actually pledged to reduce their carbon emissions to zero by 2040, so it’s only assumed that other industries will follow. And just like with any personal goal, you wouldn’t completely drop to zero overnight. for any ambition or goal to be sustainable there has to be a progression plan in place. For one, if there was the technology out there and it’s available for mass use and scale, we’d be seeing zero emissions goals completed 20 years early.
From 2021, new UK homes are being designed to produce 31% fewer carbon emissions than their predecessors. There calls for older homes to be held to higher standards than they currently are, with homeowners being encouraged to invest in double glazing, additional insulation and to reduce their energy consumption. So while current new homes aren’t having any renewable energy methods installed, the journey to zero carbon emissions has begun. Effectively, passive housing is the first step to full net zero homes.
At the moment, net zero homes are something of a novelty. Not yet taken to the mass market like we’ve seen in the UK, net zero homes are increasing in popularity in certain small areas. Zero energy ready homes are being built around the US to offer space for future renewable energy investments such as compatibility with solar panels.
Net zero homes can also be certified to preserve a higher value. Having only 10% of the emissions of a standard home is everything to shout about. While prices may rise when investing in a net zero home, the rewards are reaped as certification leads to higher valuations over time. It’s also a good way to verify that a house is a net zero house and not a passive house – that way, there are no nasty surprises.