By Jen Cole

Harvard is striving for excellence in the green building industry, as they just announced that their next project will be retrofitting a 1940s stick-built house that will be used for their headquarters. The new house is projected to use no HVAC system, no electric light use during the day, 100% ventilation, almost zero energy, and produce zero carbon emissions, including embodied energy of materials. Before now, this level of efficiency was only being achieved in new construction projects, making this HouseZero Project the first-of-its-kind.

Inefficient existing buildings are one of the nation's biggest energy problems and Harvard is setting a precedent on the possibilities in a retrofit that can be replicated almost anywhere. HouseZero not only reduces the demand for energy but also saves money for property owners by significantly lowering operating costs.

The plan is to replace the current HVAC system with thermal mass, and a ground source heat pump for peak (extreme) conditions. A solar vent will instigate buoyancy-driven ventilation and triple-glazed windows will employ natural cross ventilation through a manual and automated system that monitors for temperature, humidity, and air quality. Much like a layered approach to clothing, the house is meant to adjust itself seasonally, and even daily, to reach thermal comfort targets. Construction for this project will take about 7-9 months; check back in at the end of the year for new photos and updates.


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