Harvard University Completes HouseZero


Harvard University recently announced the opening of its ambitious HouseZero, a building that it calls “a living laboratory and energy-positive prototype for ultra-efficiency has opened its doors.”

The Project

Now officially in use as the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities’ new headquarters, the 4,600-square-foot 1924 home was retrofitted by Snohetta as the chief architects and Skanska Teknikk Norway as lead engineer. Columbia Construction managed construction.

Goals for the reno included nearly zero energy for heating and cooling, zero electric lighting during the day, 100 percent natural ventilation and producing zero carbon emissions. The building is also intended to produce more energy over its lifetime than what was used to renovate it and what it will use from now on, according to the university.

The home was also fitted with hundreds of sensors so that researchers can collect data to promote energy-efficiency, health and sustainability.

“HouseZero’s flexible, data-driven infrastructure will allow us to conduct further research that demystifies building behavior, and design the next generation of ultra-efficient structures,” said Ali Malkawi, founding director of CGBC and the creator and leader of the HouseZero project.

Changes to the three-story building (which has timber framing, cedar cladding and pitched roof) include:

  • The HVAC system was replaced with a thermal mass and a ground source heat pump for extreme conditions;
  • Photovoltaic panels were installed on the roof for energy and a solar thermal panel was installed for the building’s hot water;
  • A solar vent was installed to instigate buoyancy-driven ventilation;
  • Triple-glazed windows now employ natural cross ventilation through a manual and automated systems that monitors for temperature, humidity and air quality;
  • Indoor materials include natural clay plaster, birchwood and glass partitions.

Ultimately, HouseZero is aiming to find solutions to retrofit other existing homes.

"The U.S. building stock is responsible for around 40 percent of energy consumption, with housing nearly a quarter of that use," the team said. "Addressing the energy inefficiencies locked into this problematic building stock offers tremendous opportunity for curbing its impact on climate change."


Tagged categories: Completed projects; Energy efficiency; Maintenance + Renovation; Net Zero Energy ; North America; Retrofits

Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.