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Taking Green to a Whole New Level

A near-zero energy home – given the current soaring energy cost, who could possibly object to that? Harvard Communities President John Keith is banking on the fact that no one will object, but rather they’ll be knocking down the door to find out more.

Keith and his Denver-based group have received a lot of positive press lately about their “super” energy efficient homes. According to Keith, Harvard has always built “green” energy-friendly homes, but their near-zero energy (NZE) model is an energy efficient home on steroids. Are you ready for this? Harvard’s NZE home averages $500 to $600 dollars a year in electrical and gas bills. Yep, I said $500 to $600 a year! That’s less than $50 dollars a month for electricity and gas. Now that I have your attention, let me tell you how they do it.

First, Harvard Communities focuses on the building envelope, which means they build each structure tightly, including such features as high-performance framing, air sealing techniques, super insulation and energy efficient windows. Each window, depending on its orientation to the sun, is designed with a “solar heat gain coefficient,” meaning it repels sunlight. Harvard also pays special attention to the mechanical systems, using high-efficiency air conditioners and furnaces. They top it all off with solar power, a renewable energy source, that can supply 6.7 kilowatt-hours of energy, representing approximately 90 percent of your home’s electric/gas bill.

Of course, there are other little touches like LED lights that are 90 percent more efficient than incandescent lights, the solar thermal system that generates 90 percent of a home’s hot water, or the indoor lung system created to circulate clean, fresh air.

How much does all this clean, energy efficient, save-the-planet technology cost? Harvard’s NZE homes are in the low to mid $700,000s for a 3-bedroom, 2,800-square-foot custom design.

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  • Last edited November 12 2008
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