Residential Green Building for Net-Zero Emissions: Lessons from a Case Study in Western, MA

Authors: Brian Conz*, Westfield State College
Topics: Sustainability Science
Keywords: : Residential greenhouse gas emissions, green building, net-zero construction
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

According to the EPA, residential and commercial sources accounted for eleven percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. in 2016. These include direct emissions from combustion processes on site, as well as waste disposal and, potentially, from fluorinated gasses used in heating and cooling systems. Efforts to address emissions include improvements to the building shell through increased insulation and air sealing details; passive solar design for heating, cooling and day-lighting; adoption of alternative fuels and technologies for heating and cooling; as well as solar energy production with photovoltaic panels to meet electricity needs.

Our research involves the evaluation of a single-family home constructed with the goal of net-zero emissions. The home, constructed in 2016, achieved Massachusetts’ Tier Two Energy Star rating, which required its energy performance to go thirty percent beyond the commonwealth’s ‘stretch’ building code. With the addition of a solar array it was hoped that the building wood achieve net-zero status. We draw on two years of data including electricity outputs from the solar array, energy consumption (including electricity, firewood and propane), and estimates of the climate impacts of using fluorinated gases for the home’s split system heat-pump. We find that the project did not achieve the goal of net-zero emissions, but the process provided insights into some of the shortcomings and quandaries of contemporary green building strategies and technologies.

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