sustainable home case study: passive & universal home

I came across the cutest and smartest passive home design recently at Inhabitat that I wanted to share. This house uses only 1/10 the energy that of a conventional home, and relies on passive solar energy and heat recovery ventilation. The structure is small and simple (1200 sq ft) but allows for a central great room with tons of light and space, and a bedroom on each end. There's even a loft for a get-away space. I love how it incorporates outdoor living on both sides. The design is by Zero Energy Design and they have other great projects in their portfolio as well.

My parents are thinking about building a home for their retirement years that will be easy to live in as they get older. A house such as this one is on a slab, has no stairs, is efficient, and isn't too big. I think this would be perfect for a downsizing option. 

The key takeaways here that everyone can think about implementing bit by bit as we need to upgrade our homes, even if going LEED certified isn't in the budget: 

  • think about simple, universal design that will make sense now and in the future. Things like eliminating stairs, having open wide spaces and doorways, a tub or shower that's easy to access, and good lighting. 
  • incorporate lots of natural light. Make windows as large as possible, especially those facing south, add a skylight, or open up to a deck with french doors. 
  • add more insulation and air sealing, and upgrade to high-performance windows to prevent heat/cool air loss
  • when replacing flooring or countertops, think about using concrete as a heat conductor for natural sunlight to warm the whole house.