I have been thinking a lot about houses recently, and I remembered back to a time a few years ago when a curious little structure in East Bloomfield was being constructed. For the longest time it was impossible to tell what this unique structure was, and more than once I remember think that this was an awfully populated location for hazardous material handling or weapons testing. The house, as it turned out to be, was designed in part by Earth Sheltered Technologies and was, with exception of the south-facing entrance, completely under ground.
Towards the end of construction, the owners of the home were providing some tours of the property, inside and out. Obviously I went. We were guided through the surprisingly large interior domed structure, lectured on the energy use and conservation principles, and even offered some drinks and snacks. The house is constructed out of a reported $180,000 worth of concrete, around 400 cubic yards, forming two adjoining domes. The entire structure is covered with a myriad of impermeable layers and 4 feet of soil which was planted with a specific prairie grasses to reduce the need for mowing the roof.
The primary sources of electricity for this dwelling are the 4,000-watt solar array and 1,000-watt wind turbine, delivered through two 3,000-watt power inverters and storage batteries. In total, about a $40,000 electric generation system. The home is still connected to the power grid, which will allow the home to receive power in case of a long stretch of cloudy days with no wind. This also means that in the likely condition of the home producing too much power to utilize itself the extraneous power can be fed back to the grid with the potential to earn profit.
Projects like this are a great inspiration to people like myself. I am extremely interested in sustainable, low-impact living. Some other simple technologies that help this home remain near net energy zero are extensive use of high-efficiency compact fluorescent lights, radiant heating, open and closed-cell soy based insulation, triple pane windows, and energy star appliances. The form of this home depicts an extreme, yet efficient, design that directly points to sustainability, however I believe it is possible to attain a similar level of recognition utilizing a far more subtle design aesthetic. Not that I would not want to draw attention to myself or my home in such a manner, I would simply prefer more windows!