News

NEREJ: Retrofitting existing buildings is new frontier of energy efficiency

The New England Real Estate Journal has published a new column by CGBC Director Ali Malkawi about the importance of energy efficiency in buildings and the Center’s HouseZero retrofit project. Recognizing building energy consumption as a major contributor to climate change, Malkawi intends for HouseZero to “demonstrate how to transform one of the most challenging building types – an existing home – into a prototype that will model ultra-efficiency for other property owners.” The project will change “the paradigm for ultra-efficiency from one focused on energy production to curbing energy demand,” and will offer data and insight into improving energy efficiency for existing building stock.

Read the column here.

Harvard Gazette Q&A: A house that produces energy

The Harvard Gazette has published a new interview with Founding Director Ali Malkawi about CGBC’s retrofit of HouseZero, which strives “to produce more energy than it consumes — with zero carbon emissions and using daylighting and natural ventilation instead of an HVAC system — while serving as a learning center for students and a testing ground for emerging technologies.” In this wide-ranging interview, Professor Malkawi discusses the project in detail, highlighting the role he hopes it will play in moving building design toward ultra-efficiency. Malkawi explains that the Center “wanted to push a standard that doesn’t exist that will push efficiency to its limit[,] we wanted to identify that standard, and show that it’s possible and performance-driven.”

Read the article here. GSD coverage here.

CGBC team publishes on design of porous materials for heat exchange, decentralized ventilation

CGBC researchers’ new article entitled “Breathing walls: The design of porous materials for heat exchange and decentralized ventilation” was accepted and will be published in a forthcoming issue of Energy and Buildings, an international academic journal that publishes articles about “explicit links to energy use in buildings” to “present new research results, and new proven practice aimed at reducing the energy needs of a building and improving indoor environment quality.” Authors Salmaan Craig and Jonathan Grinham demonstrate how to design pores in building materials so that incoming fresh air can be efficiently tempered with low-grade heat while conduction losses are kept to a minimum.

CGBC’s Materials Dimension continues to advance research that aims to make natural ventilation feasible for a wider range of building types and a wider range of building climates. The team works to achieve this by developing innovative designs for building envelopes using standard materials based on principles of heat exchanger design. This work hopes to inspire an open-source ‘commons’ of innovative heat-exchange designs for breathing buildings, which can be made from standard materials and adapted to local circumstances, including in-lab and in-situ performance data.

Read the article here.

Architizer: Converting a Building Into an Energy-Efficient Predictive Piece of Architecture

Architizer profiles CGBC’s project “to convert its headquarters, a 1924 stick-built house in Cambridge, into HouseZero, a sustainable system that is expected to set a precedent for the future of green reconstruction around the world.” Professor Malkawi, founding director of the CGBC, explains that his goal is to “show how this can be replicated almost anywhere” to enhance existing building stock. The article discusses the building’s future ability, once fully retrofitted, to predict and adapt to changing weather patterns and generate new levels of proficiency using a combination of advanced sustainable technologies.

Read the article here.

Dezeen: HouseZero aims to “solve one of the world’s biggest energy problems”

Dezeen profiles CGBC’s HouseZero project “to retrofit an old house, demonstrating how existing buildings can be made more energy efficient to help address climate change.” The retrofit challenges the idea that you have to build new homes from scratch in order to implement energy-efficient design. Professor Malkawi, founding director of the CGBC, explains that his goal is to “show how this can be replicated almost anywhere” to enhance existing building stock.

Read the article here.

Architect’s Newspaper: Turning this old house at Harvard into ultra energy-efficient building

Architect’s Newspaper profiles CGBC’s HouseZero project “to transform its headquarters into a test site for technology that may make it easier to retrofit older homes.” Designed by Snøhetta, the HouseZero project revamps the CGBC’s 1924 stick-built house to run without an HVAC system, without daytime electric lighting, and produce zero carbon emissions, among other efficiencies.

Read the article here.

Curbed: Building a model for energy efficiency by renovating a decades–old home

Curbed profiles Harvard CGBC’s HouzeZero project “creating a new prototype of ultra-efficient building that requires almost zero energy, relies on natural daylighting, and produces no carbon emissions.” The website spotlights energy-saving designs, such as “the geothermal wells, which can draw up underground heat or help cool the building, and a concrete slab, which functions as a thermal mass, soaking up heat like a sponge during the winter.” Professor Ali Malkawi, CGBC Director, seeks to “collect so much information from the building itself, it’s going to be like a lab.”

Read more here.

Construction Drive: Harvard to give 1920s house a green overhaul

CGBC’s HouseZero project is featured in Construction Dive. The piece offers an overview of the retrofit’s energy-saving changes such as “eliminating the HVAC system for a thermal mass to absorb and store heat as well as a ground-source heat pump; an automated system will use algorithms to open and close windows” and “daylight-enhancing features to eliminate the need for electric lighting during the day,” which will result in a positive energy building. The author goes on to offer insight into the energy consumption of existing residential buildings nationwide.

Read the piece here.

CGBC announces first-of-its-kind HouseZero project, extreme retrofit of its headquarters

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., May 24, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — The Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) announced today that it is retrofitting its headquarters in a pre-1940s stick-built house to demonstrate how to transform this challenging building stock into a prototype of ultra-efficiency that will use no HVAC system, no electric light use during the day, 100% ventilation, almost zero energy, and produce zero carbon emissions, including embodied energy of materials.

“Before now, this level of efficiency could only be achieved in new construction,” said Ali Malkawi, professor of architectural technology at the GSD, founding director of the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities and the creator of the HouseZero project. “We want to demonstrate what’s possible, show how this can be replicated almost anywhere, and solve one of the world’s biggest energy problems — inefficient existing buildings.”

The U.S. building stock is responsible for around 40 percent of energy consumption, with housing nearly a quarter of that use. Property owners spend more than $230 billion annually heating, cooling and powering its 113.6 million homes. HouseZero could help curb climate change by creating a blueprint for reducing the demand for energy, as well as saving money for property owners by lowering operating costs.

Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean of Harvard GSD and the Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design, said, “The HouseZero project represents precisely the kind of transformative impact through design that we strive to make at the GSD. With this test case – retrofitting a house in Cambridge into a new work space – the Center for Green Buildings and Cities directly engages the ways in which we can reimagine the future of many of our cities and their utilization of resources.”

The HVAC system will be replaced with thermal mass, and a ground source heat pump for peak (extreme) conditions. A solar vent will instigate buoyancy-driven ventilation and triple-glazed windows will employ natural cross ventilation through a manual and automated system that monitors for temperature, humidity and air quality.

HouseZero’s interior will model a healthy environment with natural light, no off-gassing material and is designed to be comfortable, durable, functional, and flexible, with great acoustics. The space will also promote well-being and productivity. Rather than approaching the house as a “sealed box,” the building envelope and materials of HouseZero are designed to interact with the seasons and the exterior environment in a more natural way. Much like a layered approach to clothing, the house is meant to adjust itself seasonally, and even daily, to reach thermal comfort targets.

“All components of the building are sensored to generate data that will allow the building to adjust itself and fuel CGBC research focused on actual data and simulated environments,” said Professor Ali Malkawi. The building will also feature a flexible, highly-controlled and monitored experimental lab that is hardwired to the building’s energy exchange system. Because the lab is connected to an ultra-efficient structure, this space will allow for the testing, swapping, and optimization of new, intelligent technologies, façades, and materials to inspire the next generation of ultra-efficient buildings.

Conceptual design was fueled by the center’s blueprint and developed in collaboration with Snøhetta as the project’s lead architect, interior and landscape architect. The firm was hired because of its Scandinavian roots and its demonstrated commitment to the advancement of energy positive buildings in this region. Skanska Technology (Norway) led the energy concept with significant simulation support from CGBC research teams and Skanska (USA) provided pre-construction input. Project management logistics were provided by Harvard Planning & Project Management (HPPM) and CSL Consulting, and operations support was provided by staff from Harvard GSD. Columbia Construction will manage and execute the construction process.

HouseZero will not promote or seek any special certification because it wants to demonstrate an entirely new paradigm for ultra-efficiency, one that is localized and focused on curbing energy demand, with energy production secondary to that.

Construction will take about 7-9 months.

About Harvard Center for Green Buildings & Cities
The Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities (CGBC) aims to transform the building industry through a commitment to design-centric strategy that directly links research outcomes to the development of new processes, systems, and products. By strongly emphasizing innovation and multidisciplinary collaboration, the Center will work to promote holistic change within the built environment, namely the creation and continued improvement of sustainable, high performance buildings and cities. The CGBC was established at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 2014.

For more information, contact:

Molly Kalan
InkHouse Media + Marketing
HarvardCGBC@inkhouse.com
781-966-4115

The release is also available here.

Archinect: Maximum sustainability in Harvard GSD and Snøhetta’s “HouseZero”

CGBC’s HouseZero retrofit project is featured on Archinect. The author offers an overview of the project’s intent to provide a sustainable model for retrofitting existing residential buildings.  The piece goes on to describe CGBC’s goals to both achieve “100% natural ventilation, 100% daylight autonomy, almost zero energy required for heating and cooling, and zero carbon emissions, including embodied energy in materials” and provide a living lab for its researchers.

Read more here.