Zythryn
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Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow - Let's Fix This!

Tue Sep 02, 2014 7:14 pm

Andy, Passivehaus costs significantly more than others in northern climates.
The better windows and insulation is pretty well balanced by the much smaller HVAC needs (possibly as little as a couple of heat mats).
However, the VERY tight requirements required take a lot of time and care. It is not easy to get that low level of air exchange.

We designed a Passivehaus home, cost significantly more (30-40%). It isn't completely unreasonable if you have the money.

Using passive solar gain strategies, many of which are used in most Passivehaus houses, can be a very inexpensive way to save a lot of energy.
Heck, you can build a house that is 40% more energy efficient than a 'to code' built house at no extra cost. 75% better is still fairly easy.
90% isn't too expensive.
The price climbs fairly quickly, at least in the north, when you are working on that last 10%.
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AndyH
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Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow - Let's Fix This!

Tue Sep 02, 2014 11:57 pm

Zythryn wrote:Andy, Passivehaus costs significantly more than others in northern climates.
The better windows and insulation is pretty well balanced by the much smaller HVAC needs (possibly as little as a couple of heat mats).
However, the VERY tight requirements required take a lot of time and care. It is not easy to get that low level of air exchange.

We designed a Passivehaus home, cost significantly more (30-40%). It isn't completely unreasonable if you have the money.

Using passive solar gain strategies, many of which are used in most Passivehaus houses, can be a very inexpensive way to save a lot of energy.
Heck, you can build a house that is 40% more energy efficient than a 'to code' built house at no extra cost. 75% better is still fairly easy.
90% isn't too expensive.
The price climbs fairly quickly, at least in the north, when you are working on that last 10%.
How long ago did you price your build?

A huge part of prices for these buildings (and their carbon footprint...) was a result of shipping doors, windows, and other hardware from Europe. US manufacturers didn't have certified products until mid-2013. I don't know if we have North American sources for other hardware yet.

Overall I agree - I think PassivHaus is one way but not the only way to dramatically increase efficiency. I see it as the 'high tech/high energy' path. I'm going in the Earthship direction as it's about as low-tech as possible, doesn't use any special windows or films or doors, and has the additional benefit of an amazingly tiny carbon footprint.
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Zythryn
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Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow - Let's Fix This!

Wed Sep 03, 2014 5:40 am

Good point, it was two years ago.
Passivehaus isn't all that high tech and certainly isn't high energy, unless you are talking about embedded energy, in which case it may be, but isn't necessarily.

A net zero house (very different than a Passivehaus) uses more energy, however it produces more as well, thus bringing it to net zero for a much lower cost (again, in cold climates).

Earths hips are a very cool idea, I've studied them, although not as much as you. Very popular in the southwest as I understand.
Not so workable in Minnesota ;)

We actually are starting to see Habitat for Humanity start to build NetZero housing in MN and WI!
Very exciting times that we live in when NetZero and earth ships and Passivehaus is starting to gain traction!
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woodgeek
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Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow - Let's Fix This!

Wed Sep 03, 2014 7:08 am

Low-energy building science and building science in general have both come a long way in the last 40 years. Energy codes for US housing have improved, and retrofitting has been done and is getting better in its methods. We lag **some** EU countries on building energy use (per HDD) and much more can be done, but the amount of energy to heat and cool US homes has decreased over the last 40 years, despite significant increases to population and average home square footage per capita. This 'ok' trend will no doubt continue for some time. Simple easy/cheap energy retrofits could easily drop US home HVAC demands by 25-40% below current, and could easily be accomplished over a decade or two (since they usually only require a few days work at each house). Current payback on these retrofits varies with the price of fuel...electric resistance, oil or propane, ROI is <5 years, nat gas or heat pumps more like 10 or more.

The homes we are discussing that break from this trend are all the result of some sort of calculation.....if there is no limit to how efficient we can make a house, what goal are we trying to reach during design?

For Earthships, IIRC, the goal is to achieve close to 100% passive solar heating and natural cooling, at minimum cost, through high thermal mass, earth tempering and large amounts of direct solar gain. The designs only seem to work well in certain climates, and are very unconventional in appearance.

For Passive houses, the goal is to have close to 100% passive heating and cooling, using only normal structural elements as thermal mass, and superinsulating, airsealing and HRV'ing to a level where (Northern European) BTU loads match typical body heat, appliance heat, and small amounts of direct solar gain. This works out to be about 1 BTU/sqft.HDD and is a bar (one of several) that must be met to be certified a 'passive house'. The resulting designs do require special and expensive detailing and windows, but are close to conventional in appearance.

The goal of 'Net-Zero Energy' is obvious enough, but not sufficient to constrain the design for PV versus insulation. Optimizing for lowest cost at current PV prices does not require passive house insulation, and the optimum is moving towards less and less insulation as PV gets cheaper. Before several years ago, the cost optimum was close to passive, now it isn't. Certainly many going Net-Zero still go Passive House too, mostly for bragging rights, not cost optimization, so the ideas are often conflated, but they needed be. In the future they certainly won't be.

Still another design option is just to ask what insulation levels minimize total cost of ownership on a 30 year horizon, including current heating and cooling energy costs, with certain assumptions regarding financing (which correspond to something more like a 10 or 15 year simple payback). What is that called? It is roughly the house design called for by the most current energy codes in the US. This is exactly the calculation that DoE does to develop housing codes. Of course, most locations use old insulation codes, but I would still argue that there are far more houses being built at 2013 codes in the US, than the other three kinds above put together. And as modern code adoption moves forward through different states and towns, I expect that will continue to be true.

So, which is the 'right' design? If it became possible to buy 100% carbon free RE tomorrow at prices comparable to current electrical rates, then those 'lowest cost Net-Zero' houses would be built to the same insulation specification as '2013 code houses', and the only difference would be whether the RE came from an on-site array or an off-site RE source! Both would be zero carbon for energy, and cost the same amount. IOW, once industrial PV reaches grid parity, then any 2013 code house that buys that power becomes just as zero carbon energy as any other net-zero or passive house, and at lower cost and embodied carbon that those other kinds (by virtue of using less materials).

So, what is the difference then....its all in bets on the future. IF you are a doomer, and think society will collapse to 19th century tech...then an Earthship is your way to go. If you think energy will be available but scarce in the future, and will be much more expensive than now (for any set of reasons), then you build an expensive Passive House, and say it will pay for itself in that future. If you are worried about AGW and CO2, you build Net-Zero, on whatever budget and PV/insulation mix you prefer. If you are the DoE, you think (inflation corrected) energy costs will be about the same for the next 30-50 years, and you come up with the 2013 energy code design.

You can look at the DoE/current code position as a Business as Usual (BAU), ostrich head in the sand approach if you want (esp if you want to sell expensive Passive Houses, Deep Energy Retrofits and MREs to doomers). You can point to the Germans (worried about future energy costs and availability) and say they are making the wiser choice.

Instead, I propose that cheap solar (and storage) changes all the calculus a lot. When we say 'solar will soon reach grid parity cost', we are saying the German's have made the wrong bet. And the US DoE has made a better bet (perhaps for all the wrong reasons, but whatever). If PV gets big after it gets cheap (the usual order of events), then the cheapest way to make a house Net-Zero is to build a house much closer to a 2013 energy code than a passive house, and power it with PV (either on site, or from a grid supplier, your choice).

For example: I energy retrofit my 1960 split level place to a performance roughly the same as current energy codes, switched it from heating oil heat and DHW to air-source heat pump for both, fully electrified, and buy 100% of my electricity for the house and the LEAF from PA wind farms, at $0.124/kWh, a price that is currently $0.01/kWh cheaper than my conventional utility. My site is too shaded for PV. The energy retrofit cost $6k and some DIY, the HVAC switch cost $18k (or $10k more than installing central air, which I would have done anyway), and I save ~$4k per year on home energy costs. By some reckoning, my 1960 house is now 'net-zero carbon energy', and I am getting a 25% ROI on my energy investments.

Zythryn
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Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow - Let's Fix This!

Wed Sep 03, 2014 8:53 am

Excellent post!
The only quibble I have is that you and I are defining "net zero" differently.
The definition I am most familiar with, and the one I am using, is that the house will generate as much energy as it uses over a year.

By necessity, this generally means the net zero house uses little energy, although not as constrained as Passivehaus. This is because few high energy set ups will allow enough generating power on site.

It also does not generally include transportation energy. We do hope to expand our solar in the next few years to cover our transportation energy as well.
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woodgeek
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Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow - Let's Fix This!

Wed Sep 03, 2014 11:43 am

Zythryn wrote:Excellent post!The only quibble I have is that you and I are defining "net zero" differently.
You are completely right, and I AM talking about something different. You are talking about Net-Zero Site Energy. On my shaded lot in the woods, I can't do Net-Zero Site Energy. If I bought 100% of my electricity from a neighbor's PV array, I would NOT be Net-Zero Site Energy (since the energy was made off site), but I would still think my carbon footprint for energy would be nearly zero (and nearly the same as if I was NZSE).

I care about the carbon footprint of my household energy more than where it comes from (on site or off site). Since I can't do PV, off-site RE is the best I can do vis-a-vis the carbon emissions from my household and EV energy.
Last edited by woodgeek on Wed Sep 03, 2014 5:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

AndyH
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Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow - Let's Fix This!

Wed Sep 03, 2014 12:02 pm

Zythryn wrote:Good point, it was two years ago.
Passivehaus isn't all that high tech and certainly isn't high energy, unless you are talking about embedded energy, in which case it may be, but isn't necessarily.

A net zero house (very different than a Passivehaus) uses more energy, however it produces more as well, thus bringing it to net zero for a much lower cost (again, in cold climates).

Earths hips are a very cool idea, I've studied them, although not as much as you. Very popular in the southwest as I understand.
Not so workable in Minnesota ;)

We actually are starting to see Habitat for Humanity start to build NetZero housing in MN and WI!
Very exciting times that we live in when NetZero and earth ships and Passivehaus is starting to gain traction!
It is an exciting time overall! Yes, I suspect the 2-years since the quote is important, though also think there are still very few builders qualified to build PassivHaus. (Apparently there's been a fall-out between the German PassiveHaus 'mothership' and the US organization, and specs/standards are starting to diverge a bit. I'm not sure how that's affecting training, certification, adoption, etc.)

I'm originally from Nrn Michigan and agree that keeping a house warm through a 9-month winter requires plenty of wood. ;) I've been in San Antonio about 13 years now and it's a complete 'energy flip' - 9 months of air conditioning...and dammit, I can't find a wood-fired air conditioner anywhere (and one can only take off so many clothes...). :lol:

You're right - I was looking at embodied energy for PassivHaus.

I don't know why people think that Earthships don't work in the upper Midwest. There are more than a dozen of various generations of buildings across Canada, and they're scattered through Colorado, Montana, S Dakota, and Upstate NY. They require a bit more auxiliary heat in the winter depending on the design, but still work well. The couple in Freeville reported that while they spent $200 for propane their first year, the house wasn't yet complete, the greenhouse wasn't fully insulated, and it normally takes 12-18 months for the thermal envelope (all the earth in the berms and below the house) to stabilize.
http://freevilleearthship.blogspot.com/
http://collingwoodearthship.wordpress.c ... hipcanada/
http://earthship.com/canada
http://earthship.com/montana
"24 below zero this morning. It might as well have been 50 below.
No fires, no heat: 63°. People spent a lot of money keeping their house at 63°."
Very cool to hear that Habitat is building net-zero and PassivHaus!

I hope I don't come across as preaching or teaching as that's not my intent. I'm just trying to figure out what's available and am surprised at how far behind the rest of the world we appear to be. One example - from the earlier chart we can see how the US and German building codes compare with regards to energy use. There's a petition/telephone effort here in Texas to get the state to adopt the current building code - the standard here is the 2009 code though the 2012 code is current. I'm also shocked at how challenging it is to build to a higher performance spec - the web of out of date rules and bureaucracy are more effective at keeping performance low than at encouraging the 'stragglers' to keep up...it's sad and crazy. My personal goal is carbon neutral and while some of the local regulators have heard about solar panels, net-zero doesn't trigger a lot of recognition from officials. Trying to talk about carbon-zero would probably result in a free 'huggy coat' and some time in a special room at the county hospital. ;) :lol:

Push for Texas to update the energy code...failed in 2012...failed in 2013...
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/917/403/343/
http://texasgreenreport.wordpress.com/2 ... codes-now/
The Texas A & M analysis found that homes built to the new energy codes – known as the 2012 Residential Code and the 2012 International Energy Conservation Codes – would save a homeowner up to 25% per year in Dallas and up to 20% in Houston in total energy use, while reducing the summer peak use – the most energy used on a hot summer hour – by 14 to 26 percent depending on the area of the state.
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AndyH
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Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow - Let's Fix This!

Tue Nov 11, 2014 12:12 pm

Reddy wrote:Andy, I haven't read this entire thread so I don't know if this has been posted, but here's a out-of-the box solution. There are more recent developments (videos, federal grants, results, etc.) that you can easily find with google.
http://www.scientificamerican.com/artic ... olar-roads

Maybe crazy to think that we could be driving trucks on PVs, but it does present some very nice solutions to the problems you've been discussing. Placing PVs in/on roads does not consume any farmland, wilderness areas, sensitive areas, etc. It doesn't displace or kill endangered or protected species. It shouldn't require an EIS review. It places/concentrates power production close to the population centers (e.g., more roads exist where more people live). It has the potential to add additional transmission capabilities and connect to the existing grid anywhere a road crosses a power line. It widely distributes power across the entire nation, thus reducing or eliminating the need for storage. Other benefits? Now if we can only get this cheap enough to make immediate financial sense, and not have to wait 30-50 yrs for payback.
And it begins. Not in the USA, of course, but it begins. ;)

http://www.citylab.com/commute/2014/11/ ... ne/382480/
The Netherlands Gets the World's First Solar-Powered Bike Lane
Image

http://www.mynissanleaf.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=1025

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AndyH
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Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow - Let's Fix This!

Mon Feb 16, 2015 7:05 pm

Solutions: Edible Education and the Edible Schoolyard Project

The total US agriculture system - farming and meat production - is now the number one producer of greenhouse gases, the primary source for coastal dead zones, and uses about 20% of the fossil fuels we use every year. To add insult to injury, we waste about 25% of the food we grow, fertilize, fumigate, and transport 1500 plus miles. The Edible Schoolyard Project and Edible Education presents the problems and highlights solutions. The good news? ALL of the problems are being solved - the replacement agriculture system is growing. And it's a very good thing!

The 2015 Edible Education lecture series is underway now at Berkeley. The first three presentations are here:
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=P ... albuNCfrHa

Here's Michael Pollan's intro talk from 2015:



The complete 2012 series is here:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=P ... 7xXl6-Fbj2

Additional info:
https://www.youtube.com/user/ESYProject
http://food.berkeley.edu/edible-education-101/

Welcome to the future of food - already in progress.
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AndyH
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Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow - Let's Fix This!

Fri Jan 01, 2016 11:45 am

Remember the discussion up thread about which organism's path we'd follow - a gentle rise to balance or overshoot/crash? It's done. The data are in and it shouldn't surprise anyone that we can't grow our way out of anything on a finite planet. Welcome to massive overshoot already in progress.


The first part of this interview talks specifically about the Limits to Growth research, how it spawned the Club of Rome, and how mainstream economics worked to discredit the message in exactly the same way that the fossil fuel industry mangled the message on climate and GHGs and the tobacco industry lied about cancer.




http://www.donellameadows.org/archives/ ... ar-update/
http://www.clubofrome.org/?p=326
http://www.donellameadows.org/wp-conten ... ersion.pdf


Remember that admonition about how people are smart but crowds are stupid? It appears that humanity isn't any more intelligent than field mice after all.

I guess "we could have done better" isn't the worst epitaph, eh?
"The stupid become extinct."-Bill Mollison
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