I believe that one of the biggest impediments to the green revolution is nostalgia and sentimentality in architecture. Once you tie your building to a preordained style, you’re going to cut yourself off from a lot of the most sustainable things you can do.
Houston, we have take off: Virginia Point
In Houston, a city famous for its association with nonrenewable energy, a self-sufficient home known as Virginia Point generates its own renewable energy with a massive rooftop solar system.
Two excellent sources of green building news, EcoHome Magazine and Jetson Green, both recently profiled Houston’s first LEED Platinum home (and the 2010 recipient of the Eco-structure Evergreen Award from Eco-structure in the Greenhouse category) and boy is it a doozy.
Armed with a rooftop solar array consisting of 140 170W Sharp solar panels and a touch of irony (it was proudly built in the Oil Capital of the world, after all), the self-sufficient, 3,500-square foot home is called Virginia Point. It's owned by Daniel and Adele Hedges, a couple that now, thanks to their net-zero energy digs, consider themselves “environmental evangelists.” Daniel tells EcoHome, “Houston is the energy capital of the U.S., so what better place to have a home that produces its own energy?”
The home’s 23.8 kW solar system is complemented by numerous eco-friendly features including geothermal heating and cooling and a 7,000 gallon rainwater cistern and in-house water treatment system that nearly brings Virginia Point to net-zero water status (alas, the home is still connected to the sewer system). In the event of a hurricane, a backup battery system keeps things running smoothly in the home. In fact, the home has already persevered through one major storm without incident due in part to the solar panels integration with the structure’s exposed galvanized steel framing.
Other notable green aspects of the Adams Architects-designed, Dovetail Builders-built abode include passive solar design, operable windows that allow for natural cross-ventilation, drought-tolerant landscaping, bamboo cabinetry, recycled paper countertops, low-VOC paints and finishes, and much more.
With its durable, maintenance-free steel frame, galvanized aluminum skin, and prominently displayed cobalt-blue solar panels, Virginia Point doesn’t exactly scream “warm and inviting.” However, Daniel Hedges begs to differ, telling EcoHome, “It’s a very warm and comfortable house. You expect you’re going to come into a hard, cold place, but it’s anything but that.” Architect John Adams adds:
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