From void into vision, from vision to mind, from mind into speech, from speech to the tribe, from the tribe into din.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Zero Net Energy - August 1, 2016

I’m noticing a cross-over now between zero net energy building and city agriculture, two subjects I follow and publish links lists on.  The archive of the city agriculture links list is at
Net Zero Plus
The NetZero Plus Electric Training Institute (NZP-ETI), opened recently in Los Angeles, and is the largest net-zero plus commercial building retrofit in USA which “will function as a living laboratory, educational facility and demonstration center for advanced and emerging clean energy technologies."

I’ve built a version of this for myself and it seems to work although mine is just a small test model

All terrain off the grid survival vehicle

New home construction moving towards net zero

Retrofit home in Whatcom County, Washington produces twice the energy it now consumes (in an area with solar insolation of 3.5 - 3.0 kWh/square meter/day)

Virginia Beach,VA 10,500-square-foot Brock Environmental Center turns rainwater into drinking water, produces 83% more energy than it uses

Net Zero Energy Vermont - blog focusing on making Vermont the first zero energy state
Net zero energy feasibility study for Vermont buildings (and beyond)
Net zero downtown Montpelier design competition

Siemens new Munich headquarters, using 90% less electricity and 75% less water than what the building it replaced

Los Angeles net zero solar powered  20 unit apartment building:  Hanover Olympic 

Nanjing China zero net energy Green Light House

Net Zero community in Salt Lake City

Telus Gardens in Vancouver, LEED Platinum with indoor gardens

LIAR Living Architecture
"This project will develop blocks able to extract resources from sunlight, waste water and air. The bricks are able to fit together and create ‘bioreactor walls’ which could then be incorporated in housing, public buildings and office spaces.”

Floating House - 100 sqm residential unit, 12 m in diameter and 4 m high, made entirely of recycled laminated timber on a recycled aluminium hull.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Solar Electric Power to the People

I like direct action, positive protest that has immediate, practical, social and economic use.  
That's why I say, Solar IS Civil Defense - light, phone, battery can be supplied by a few square inches of solar electric panel.  The solar bike lights on my backpack over the last decade have proven the concept to my satisfaction (

Light, phone, battery are also entry level electricity for the 1.4 billion or so of us around the world who don't yet have access to reliable electric power.  Emergency preparedness at home, entry level solar power to the people who've never had it is essentially the same thing.
Bare minimum solar electricity for all, as long as the sun shines and the batteries hold out, is technically and practically feasible now.  
It is rapidly becoming affordable too.  

I know of one company that is reaching the price point of $1 per unit production costs for solar rechargeable lights ( and believe that there are others that are doing the same or better.  That's $1.4 billion in production costs (or less, given economies of scale) to supply everyone among the presently powerless or $200 million if we start with one solar lighting system per family at a global average of 7 people per family.
How much more for delivery and setting up the infrastructure?  The Dominican Light Project ( is beginning to provide solar lights for every family in the Dominican Republic at a proposed cost of $5 each to the customer's door.  They raised some of their money through crowdfunding (
Bare minimum solar electricity for all, as long as the sun shines and the batteries hold out, is not only technically feasible but also affordable and practical now.
in 2015, the world's military forces spent $1,676.0 billion annually or $4.59 billion per day
2016 USA Presidential election spending to July 22, 2016:
Amount raised by candidates:  $904 million
Amount raised by Super PACS supporting them:  $492
Just for reference.
Conceivably, there could be ad hoc popular movement for crowd funding the end of electrical energy poverty within the next 3 to 5 years.  A day of what we spend on warfare or a US Presidential campaign could give everybody who needed a light, a light.  This is solar electric power to the people.
Now, add a bicycle or a hand-crank and you have two reliable sources of electricity day or night, by sunlight or muscle power.
Here are a few solar lighting buy one, give one programs:
One Million Lights


Buy One Give One for Malawi

LuminAID Portable Solar-Powered Inflatable Light

10 Inspiring "Buy One Give One" Projects - Mashable

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Free as in Sunlight

Found an interesting project while wandering through my usual haunts on the Internet the other day.  The Dominican Light Project ( is an Indiegogo campaign with a goal of raising at least $25,000 over the month of May 2016 to give solar lanterns to 5000 families in the Dominican Republic.  "For every $25 raised with the Dominican Light Project on Indiegogo, five Dominicans will receive a solar lantern to provide them with a safe source of light. Each lantern provides 12 hours of bright, LED light per 6-8-hour charge and will also eliminate the health and fire risks associated with candles and kerosene lamps.”  Eventually, they’d like to give a solar lantern to every family in the Dominican Republic at an estimated cost of over $25 million.
This reminded me of another solar project in the  Dominican Republic that started in 1984, Enersol (, which developed the SOlar-BASed rural Electrification Concept (SO-BASEC): "an appropriate low-cost, practical, PV system that could be sold and installed by local PV supply micro-enterprises, with financing through a low-cost micro-credit payment plan managed by a local association, cooperative or NGO.”  This model would go on to influence the Grameen Shakti ( program in Bangladesh as well as the Solar Electric Light Company (SELCO) ( ) in India.

What I remember most about Enersol and their work was their insistence on builidng a local support infrastructure that would not only install but also maintain and repair the equipment.  "By 1990 Enersol’s training and assistance to local technicians and micro-credit programs had led to the electrification of 1,000 households and micro-enterprises” demonstrating "that solar electrification was an affordable and effective alternative to conventional grid systems and that it benefited the environment and contributed to local economic development as well.”  And that’s at 1984-1990 prices.

The Dominican Light Project estimates the cost of their solar lights at $5 each, 12 hours of light for every 6-8 hours of charging.  A few months ago, I had an email from Thrive Solar ( informing me that they’ve been able to build solar lights for $1 a piece in production costs in their Indian factory.
For years, I’ve been promoting the idea of Solar IS Civil Defense ( - what we are all supposed to have on hand in case of emergency:  flashlight, cell phone, radio, extra set of batteries - can be powered by a few square inches of solar electric panel.  Add a hand crank or bicycle generator and you have a reliable source of survival level electricity, day or night, by sunlight or muscle power.  This is also entry level electrical power for the 1.5 billion people around the world who do not yet have access to electricity.  

Civil defense at home and economic development abroad can be combined economically as a gift, a premium in a “buy one, give one” program, as a small business, and in many other configurations.  Sunlight is free and the technology for converting it to electricity is now within almost everyone’s grasp. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Zero Net Energy - April 20, 2016

Shanghai Tower:  World’s Foremost Eco-Friendly Skyscraper?

Greening the Empire State Building - report from 2011

Net Zero Habitat for Humanity homes

ZNE Action Bulletin, Winter 2016

Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC)  called for legally binding targets for near-zero building energy standards

Energiesprong - Dutch near net zero building retrofit kit

EU ZNE renovarion case studies:  zero-energy for zero-upfront-costs (The Netherlands); a revolving loan fund (Estonia); a large-scale national programme (Germany); a scheme tackling fuel poverty (France) and dedicated energy services for the public sector (United Kingdom).

Toward Zero Net Energy (ZNE) Super High-Rise Commercial Buildings - 2014 White Paper

Seoul to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Buildings 26.9% by 2020

UK’s Costa coffee shops opening 4 new ZNE Eco-Pods

NYC’s first Passive apartment building, Perch Harlem

Sunday, January 17, 2016

World Game Notes: MOOCs, Global Displays, and Existing Technological Opportunities

"Quite clearly, our task is predominantly metaphysical, for it is how to get all of humanity to educate itself swiftly enough to generate spontaneous behaviors that will avoid extinction."  R Buckminster Fuller
MOOC [Massive Open Online Course]: Power Agriculture: Sustainable Energy for Food
Feb 1st - March 27, 2016“Details: Around one third of the energy used worldwide goes into the production and processing of food from field to table. Given the current energy system mix, the agrifood industry sector is however heavily dependent on fossil fuel inputs for production, transport, processing and distribution, and contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. With a continuously growing world population the need for food and for energy to produce it is increasing. At the same time millions of farmers and processors in developing countries and emerging economies lack access to clean energy technologies for irrigation, drying, cooling, storage and other processes. Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development (PAEGC) seeks to identify and support new and sustainable approaches to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy solutions for increasing agriculture productivity and/or value in developing countries.”

There is now technology to show this and other MOOCs’ proceedings on, among other things, a dynamic spherical screen like the iGlobe (  Currently, MIT’s Program in Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate and the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences is hosting a two foot diameter iGlobe. 
“If you have data or interactive models you'd like to see visualized on the sphere... learn how it can be done and to figure out better ways and how to present information using the iGlobe.  Or try to make a compelling environmental movie using the sphere, an auxiliary screen, and sound.  Or come if you'd just like to experiment with the way things look projected on a spherical surface.”

There are open sessions with the IGlobe display every Thursday in January 2016 from 11am to 12pm at MIT, Building 54-1827, 21 Ames Street, Cambridge, the Green Building, the tallest building on campus.  Glenn Flierl, Professor of Oceanography, is the host.
NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] also has a program called Science on a Sphere, 
“a room sized, global display system that uses computers and video projectors to display planetary data onto a six foot diameter sphere, analogous to a giant animated globe. Researchers at NOAA developed Science On a Sphere® as an educational tool to help illustrate Earth System science to people of all ages.”

These ongoing activities approach R Buckminster Fuller’s idea of a World Game:  
The goal of the World Game is to "make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological damage or disadvantage to anyone." 

Today, we have the technology to play the World Game online in real time with interactive maps and satellite images updated frequently.  Imagine World of Peacecraft or the Final Fantasy of a sustainable, restorative economy and ecology for everybody, all 100% of the human population with a significant number of that 100% participating as co-designers, for the benefit of all who will allow the benefit of all.
An online, ad hoc “Dashboard for Spaceship Earth” can also be cobbled together from existing resources with some of theseWorld Game Dashboards and Visualizations:
clock of various Earthly vital statistics
Breathing Earth - carbon output, births and deaths
AP's interactive map of countries, emissions, and climate goals (2009)
NASA's Aqua/AIRS animation on carbon, watching the Earth breathe - associated with Solutions Journal
Environmental Performance Index 
Arctic Jet Stream
Yale's Environmental Performance Index ( is global in scope. 
And the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( tracks everything from temperature change to carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. 

Terralingua is tracking something unique they call Vitality Index( 
What are other groups tracking? 
What global measures are there for biodiversity, ocean health, arable land, rainforest, ice coverage, number of species, etc? 
realtime wind/temperature Earth:
The Skeptical Environmentalist ( has a lot of interesting statistics and comes from another perspective. 
UNESCO ( has good statistics about education and science from a global perspective.
NASA's Earth Observatory ( has some cool maps and interesting analysis of what is happening on earth as seen by satellites. 
For example, while biodiversity is going down, the total amount of life on earth as measured by Net Primary Productivity has actually increased on average by 6% from 1982 to 1999.
Crisis Commons ( and CrisisCamps like this 2010 one for Haiti in Boston are already a kind of narrow World Game:
Saturday, February 13, 2010 CrisisCamp will bring again together volunteers in Boston, MA to collaborate on technology projects which aim to assist in Haiti's relief efforts by providing data, information, maps and technical assistance to NGOs, relief agencies and the public.
The Buckminster Fuller Institute ( is preserving and continuing Fuller's work and OS Earth ( runs corporate and student simulations based upon the World Game.
There are disaster preparedness ( and humanitarian assistance training ( simulations online. Bright Neighbor ( is a community resilience software package marketed to city and town governments.  [There is also which has worked with Occupy Sandy in NYC and helps cities and towns prepare for recovery before the disaster happens.]
One game designer, Jane McGonigal has built a number of real world problem solving games, including SuperStruct for the Institute for the Future ( in 2009 and Evoke, in 2010. The first challenge in that game is a famine in Tokyo ten years from now. There are ten challenges to be completed in ten weeks. McGonigal's writings are at 
John Robb of Global Guerrillas ( theorizes about "a real world company that operates like a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game. One reason I believe that this type of venture would work (and that my dream wasn't purely a fantasy) is this simple insight: MMOs with persistent environments (aka 'worlds') have proven an ability to incentivize tens of millions of players to do billions of hours of work...."
Those incentives are
"Improvement in status (level).
Gain new capabilities (new tools) and skills.
Earn in-game faux money (to purchase new tools and status enhancing items)."
In-game faux money becomes real money all the time these days.
Additional Links:"  The Cost of Life is a pre-earthquake game of rural life in Haiti (Ayiti) from UNICEF. The object of this game is to follow one family for four years. It is not an MMO.  and are both sites trying to compile permaculture and transition town information as it applies to Haiti
Enersa (  is a Haitian group doing solar as a cottage industry.
For more information contact Richard Komp, PhD, Director of Skyheat Associates <>.  His report on a 2007 visit is at [pdf alert]
Ozone Hole Watch
International Institute for Sustainable Development on climate policy
Gamification of Systems Thinking
urban world app from McKinsey "offers previously unavailable data from a proprietary MGI database of more than 2,600 cities around the world”
10 science games doing real research, including a game to find cropland at
There is a board game version that approaches the World Game called the World Peace Game ( developed by John Hunter for Fourth Graders and other elementary school students.  I've talked with him and he knows about Buckminster Fuller's World Game but has his hands full with his won World Peace Game.  He has been working with a gaming group at MIT to make a digital version of the tabletop version of the game.
These are all resources I’ve collected over the years and are not intended to be examined all at once, only to give you an idea of what is already out there and available now.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Zero Net Energy - January 2016 edition

Greenbuild Unity Home - prefab, affordable net-zero home can be built in less than three days to LEED v4 Platinum and net zero-energy standards and with the largest collection of Cradle to Cradle (C2C) certified building products ever used in a residential project.

zHome:  the first net zero energy townhome complex in the United States (built in 2011 in Issaquah, WA) with benchmarks of net zero energy use, a 70% reduction in water use, a 90% construction recycling rate and the use of only low- and non-toxic materials among other specifications

Net Zero Energy Buildings Technical Reports

DOE's A Common Definition for Zero Energy Buildings

Presentations from Building Carbon Zero California 2015

Net zero 1910 school to lofts conversion in Amsterdam

Architecture at Zero 2015 winners

Zero Net Energy Roadmap for local governments (California)

Zero net energy building controls report

Market Data:  Zero Net Energy Homes (paid access only it seems)

Zero net energy laboratories

Seattle region near net zero community (including one HERS -1 rated, net positive house)

From energy efficiency lighting expert Fred Davis: - February 18-19, 2016 in San Diego, CA

Sidmore Owings and Merrill build a net zero energy school in Staten Island, NYC's first

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Zero Net Energy

Zero net energy is a growing body of practice in which buildings produce all the energy they consume.  It is the application of high efficiency construction in combination with renewable energy, usually solar or geothermal.  Sometimes it is also called net zero energy building.

I began to collect links to various zero net energy building projects around the world back in 2013 soon after, in the story I heard, Cambridge City Councillor Minka Van Beuzekom  proposed it as a building standard for a large development MIT is planning in East Cambridge.  That idea didn't fly (the development is part of an ecodistrict instead, as I understand it) but did lead to a task force which has prepared a path to zero net energy standards in the city.

The EU has adopted the building energy target of nearly zero and all new public buildings must be nearly zero-energy by 2018 with all new buildings, public or private, constructed to nearly zero-energy standards by the end of 2020.

CA has a 2020 zero net energy goal "focused on new residential construction, including single-family and low-rise multifamily (3 stories or less) buildings, as well as low and moderate income housing within these categories."

The knowledge and materials to build buildings that are comfortable without outside energy inputs through advances in energy efficiency and energy production on site have made zero net energy buildings practical and affordable.  They will only become more so as time goes on, examples accumulate, and experience grows.

Since we build about a million new residential units a year, nearly 1% of the units available, these changes in the way we shelter ourselves will have increasingly significant effects on our energy usage in the years and decades after 2020 in, at least, Cambridge, CA, and the EU.

July 12, 2013
Pearl River Tower, Guangzhou, China 71 floor zero net energy skyscraper

Maybe some of the ideas will work in Kendall Square and other areas of Cambridge.

And then there's also these:
UC Davis West Village 130-acre development for about 3,000 people in 662 apartments and 343 single-family houses
Zero net energy neighborhood in the US, being built near Boulder, CO - hat tip inhabitant
Zero net energy neighborhood in Arvada, CO
Walgreens zero net energy store
The Net-Zero Neighborhood: Advanced Energy Storage and Highly Efficient Photovoltaics Take Transportation Off the Gasoline Grid and Residential Off the Electric Grid

July 18, 2013

article on status of US zero net energy building

"Getting To Zero 2012 Status Update: A First Look at the Costs and Features of Zero Energy Commercial Buildings"

The largest of the buildings mentioned is the NREL Research Support Facility with 360,000 ft2 and five or six stories.

August 4, 2013

20 story PassivHaus building in Vienna - article in German

November 12, 2013

Architecture Zero

March 19, 2014

Ecocity Frameworks and Standards

May 12, 2014
Two Positive Net Energy Buildings
Zero Net/Positive Net Energy Retrofit in Norway

Elithis Tower, 10 story zero net/positive net energy office and retail building in Dijon, France

June 13, 2014

July 7, 2014
Not a large building but an instrumented test house which actually produced more energy than it consumed even after an unusually bad winter:

July 11, 2014
Swiss Company Renovating to Net Zero and Net Positive Energy

Saw Karl Viriden present some of his work today at the Watt d’Or event at Northeastern.

January 12, 2015

First Passivhaus-certified laboratory building in USA, University of Chicago's Warren Woods Ecological Field Station

March 11, 2015

Philippe Starck’s prefab positive net energy house - up to 150% of the energy the house needs

Brooklyn’s BrightnGreen zero net energy 8 unit residence

Low carbon nine-story building in Tianjin, China

General Services Administration's Net-Zero Energy Task Group

Zero Energy Building in Norway, designed to "achieve a balanced carbon footprint throughout the course of their whole existence, including construction, operations, and demolition" and providing "more energy than it takes to build it, operate it, and charge the car in the garage"

Cropthorne House  exceeds German Passivhaus standard by a factor of three (heat demand 5kWh/m²/yr). Completely 'water-neutral' by use of harvested rainwater and composting toilets – ...Uses neither mains water or drainage, nor the energy required to deliver them.Intelligent use of renewable energy makes the house carbon negative.
[thermal mass for seasonal storage?]

99 Story Net Zero Skyscraper In Jakarta
Designed by US architectural firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the 1740′ tall, 99-story net zero skyscraper will generate as much energy as it uses, have zero waste discharge, and feature reduced water demand. The architects say this is “the world’s first supertall tower for which energy is the primary design driver.”

First Passivhaus-certified laboratory building in USA, University of Chicago's Warren Woods Ecological Field Station

General Services Administration task group recommended that at least 50 percent of the GSA’s and the entire federal government’s building area achieve net-zero energy status by 2030

R-951 Residence is the first Passive House certified and Net-Zero capable buildings to be completed in New York City, three 1,500 square foot apartment condominiums

Net zero home infographic

Zero waste textile factory

Net zero retrofit office rental building

Australian carbon positive pre-fab house

Swedish EcoDataCenter - Three buildings, 23,250 square meters, 18 megawatts from Sun, wind, water and secular biofuels, 24/7/365

Modular School Buildings Move to Net Zero Energy - these schools are being erected now in CA

April 23, 2015

Tucson/Pima County Net Zero Energy Standard

Zero Energy Performance Index

Zero energy lab at University of North Texas

Net zero DC microgrid for CA Honda distribution plant

Passive house in NYC

2015 List of zero energy buildings in USA and Canada

Zero net laboratory at Bristol Community College, Fall River, MA

Prototype 4x positive energy portable classroom for Hawaii

Sustainable Education Every Day (SEED) Living Building classroom in Pittsburgh

Richmond, VA single-story seven units “net-zero energy” multifamily apartment building for lower-income seniors

San Leandro, CA Zero Net Energy Center -  the very first large-scale commercial building retrofit to meet the standards of the U.S. Department of Energy as “zero net energy”. It is also the new home of the IBEW Local 595 and the Northern California Chapter of NECA’s Joint Apprenticeship and Training Program.  The building celebrated the completion of its first year of occupancy in September, 2014 and proved its zero net energy status.

UC Merced has taken a Triple Zero Commitment to consume zero net energy and produce zero waste and zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2020

Analysis of load match and grid interaction indicators in net zero energy buildings with simulated and monitored data

ASHEAE Net Zero Energy video

Germany's power flow animation of electricity production, consumption and transport at 100% renewable energy

June 12, 2015
Net positive townhouses in Roxbury neighborhood of Boston

Federal and state mandates are influencing how buildings and construction projects are being designed, constructed, and operated, as well. California’s recently passed building code revisions that require all new residential and commercial construction to achieve zero net energy by 2020 and 2030, respectively. Similarly, new requirements by the federal and state governments call for all new federal buildings to achieve zero net energy by 2030 and all new state buildings to be built as zero net energy facilities after 2025.

AC/DC Microgrid

2015 Race to Zero Student Design Competition on cost-effective, zero energy homes for mainstream builders - 33 entries from 27 universities
Description of winning entry

Hybrid electric buildings - storage to microgrid to a fleet of such buildings to act as a peaker plant - not zero net energy but the implications are applicable

Barcelona building with responsive bioclimatic skin

Zero energy prefab homes (CA)

Zero net energy development in Davis, CA, two thousand occupants

Sekisui Heim Japanese construction company builds "zero-utility cost" houses and has  constructed over 160,000 units with "solar generation systems"

October 8, 2015
World's first high rise Passivhaus (?) for Cornell Tech in NYC

Belgian study on retrofit systems for zero energy buildings

Washington DC study on cost and value of net zero and living buildings

Belgium's largest PassivHaus breaks ground in Brussels,659,0,0,1,0

Zero Carbon House from Cardiff University

USA's first Zero Net affordable apartments in Woodland, CA

New Construction Guide and the Architecture 2030 Challenge

Best practices for zero net energy buildings from Marc Rosenbaum

First net zero energy retail store in New York State

Axiom House - flatpack prefab net-zero concept home at half the cost of a standard home

DOE Common Definition of Zero Energy Buildings

Japanese Zero-Energy Buildings:  "Japan's 10 major homebuilders sold between 10,000 and 20,000 zero-energy houses in fiscal 2014. That number is expected to rise to more than 50,000 by fiscal 2020."

NESEA’s High Performance Buildings Database, a joint project with the Net Zero Energy Coalition, will be unveiled at the Building Energy NY conference on October 15. The database showcases projects that qualify via participation in an eligible building performance program or by providing energy use data or an energy model as evidence of achieving zero net energy on an annual basis, plus or minus 10 percent. Each case study in the filterable database covers over 150 data points, and has been peer-reviewed by a net zero expert. Submissions are encouraged.

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