The Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities (CGBC) at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) announced today the completion of HouseZero, the retrofitting of its headquarters in a pre-1940s building in Cambridge into an ambitious living-laboratory and an energy-positive prototype for ultra-efficiency that will help us to understand buildings in new ways. The design of HouseZero has been driven by radically ambitious performance targets from the outset, including nearly zero energy for heating and cooling, zero electric lighting during the day, operating with 100 percent natural ventilation, and producing zero carbon emissions.
The building is intended to produce more energy over its lifetime than was used to renovate it and throughout its subsequent operation. Snøhetta was the project’s lead architect and Skanska Teknikk Norway was the lead energy engineer. Leveraging HouseZero as both a workspace and a research tool, the CGBC will use millions of data points from hundreds of sensors embedded within each component of HouseZero to continually monitor its performance. This sensory data will also provide Harvard’s researchers with an unprecedented understanding of complex building behavior.
This data will in turn, fuel research involving computational simulation, helping the CGBC develop new systems and data-driven learning algorithms that promote energy-efficiency, health, and sustainability. As a prototype, HouseZero works to address one of the biggest energy problems in the world today—inefficient existing buildings. The U.S. building stock is responsible for around 40 percent of energy consumption, with housing nearly a quarter of that use. Addressing the energy-inefficiencies locked into this problematic building stock offers tremendous opportunity for curbing its impact on climate change. Paving the way through ultra-efficient retrofit strategies, HouseZero creates a blueprint for reducing energy demands and increasing cost savings for property owners.
“HouseZero demonstrates how to solve that problem by optimizing current technologies to achieve unprecedented building performance,” said Malkawi, founding director of the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities and the creator and leader of the HouseZero project. The ultra-efficiency of HouseZero lies at the intersection of cutting-edge technologies and applications of established, low-tech architectural design solutions. An example is natural ventilation, which is controlled by a window actuation system, which employs sophisticated software and sensors arrays to automatically open and close windows to maintain a quality internal environment throughout the year.
The building itself will strive for best possible comfort; however a window can always be opened manually to ensure individual comfort still remains firmly tethered to human instinct. HouseZero will be used to research how to fundamentally redefine how a structure can connect with and respond to its natural environment to promote efficiency and health. Rather than approaching the building as a “sealed box,” the building envelope and materials of HouseZero were designed to interact with the seasons and the exterior environment in a more natural way.
The building will adjust itself constantly—sometimes by the minute— to reach thermal comfort for its occupants. As a living lab, the Center’s researchers are afforded inspiring surroundings that they themselves will be able to control and adapt. With time, the CGBC’s research has the potential to greatly diminish the environmental impact of the building industry through widespread sharing and implementation of HouseZero’s findings and data-driven building research across new construction and future building renovations worldwide. Source by Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities.
- Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
- Architect: Snøhetta
- Energy/Climate Engineer: Skanska Teknikk (Norway)
- Structural Engineering: Silman Associates
- MEP/FP Engineering, Lighting: BR+A
- Civil Engineering: Bristol Engineering
- BAS/Controls/Natural Ventilation System: WindowMaster
- Acoustics: Brekke & Strand Akustikk
- Code & Accessibility: Jensen Hughes
- Geotechnical Engineering: Haley & Aldrich
- Vertical Transportation: Syska Hennesy
- Specficiations: Kalin Associates
- BAS/Controls/Security Systems: Siemens Building
- Technologies Photovoltaic System: Solect Energy
- Landscape Architect: Reed Hilderbrand
- Project Management: Harvard Planning & Project Management & CSL Consulting
- Operations Support: Harvard Graduate School of Design Staff
- Year: 2018
- Photographs: Michael Grimm, credit Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities, Courtesy of Snøhetta