With the world’s carbon Negative Homes facing an unprecedented climate crisis, many of us wonder what we can do as individuals to reduce our carbon footprint. Ideally, we would like to make our homes “net zero” energy. This means our homes will be able to produce as much energy as they consume! A zero-carbon house is one that does not increase the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere (net carbon emissions over the course of a year).
This is achieved using solar panels, heat pumps, a super-tight barrier between the inside and outside, above-code insulation, energy-efficient windows, lighting, and appliances. New homes can be built to such specifications but is it possible to renovate existing homes too? According to World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), a network of national green building councils in 70 countries worldwide, renovation reduces the need for new building materials which require energy to produce, transport, and install.
By adding upgrades to the exterior elements of your home, such as windows and insulation, you can affordably move toward net-zero energy. How your utility company produces electricity is a big factor in achieving net-zero in a renovation. You can switch from gas to electric and install a cold climate air-source heat pump to heat and cool your home. In a region where electricity comes from fossil fuels achieving net-zero energy looks quite different and can be more challenging. Setting an eventual goal for a net-zero [energy renovation] is to disconnect from fossil fuels altogether and self-generated renewable energy.
What exactly causes carbon emissions?
- Burning fossil fuels like oil, petrol, gas, and coal produce carbon dioxide. When we use fossil fuels to build houses, heat our homes or generate electricity carbon is released into the atmosphere. The increase in carbon dioxide is causing global warming, rising sea levels, extinction, and more unpredictable weather patterns across the world. In order to change these patterns, we need to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that our homes produce.
Definition of a Carbon negative house:
- Carbon Negative homes not just carbon neutral, it is carbon negative. Over the course of a year, the house generates more electricity than it uses, so it cuts CO2 being produced elsewhere.
Carbon negative accounts for not only the energy used to operate a building but also all of the embedded carbon in the materials and construction. As Architects, our green goal is to design buildings that can remove carbon from the atmosphere. We strive to achieve this by using technology to design ultra-efficient, prefabricated homes that require less energy to function. These homes would be equipped with built-in renewable energy and water technologies removing the need for fossil fuels. Using low carbon materials can have a positive effect on air quality and health, but also help the building to last longer.
Microsoft recently announced it aims to become carbon negative by the year 2030. What’s more, the company said that by 2050, it plans to have removed from the atmosphere all the carbon that it has emitted since it was founded in 1975. This shows they are playing an important role in meeting international climate goals.
The best way for a homeowner to begin the process of achieving a carbon negative home is to avoid using fossil fuels. Here are some ways:
- Super insulation of the walls, roof, doors and windows,
- Airtight construction.
- Heat-exchanging ventilation
- Natural ventilation in summer.
- Making the most of daylight,
- Use the warmth of the sun to warm the house.
- Use solar thermal panels on the roof to heat water which is stored in a specially insulated hot water cylinder.
- Use photovoltaic panels on the roof to generate electricity.
- Purchase the most efficient electrical appliances available
- Grow firewood in the garden to burn in a wood burning stove.
It is never too late to begin the process of achieving a carbon negative home. Taking just one step can reap benefits to the environment. You will be amazed at the amount of money you can save as well as the beneficial effects it will have on the planet.