Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on January 1, 2010
“zeroHouse” I gotta say, the name doesn’t thrill me. In this age of crappy no-calorie sodas that taste like metal or underfed actresses with no curves who can fit into a size smaller than 1, the word “zero” connotates that something vital is missing or that the product is somehow subpar. And who wants “less than”?
I took one look at zeroHouse and thought “Cool design – but what’s it lacking?” That’s where reading really comes in handy. Turns out, the only things missing from zeroHouse are things you’re happy to be without: utility bills, excessive maintenance and the headaches usually associated with owning your own place.
zeroHouse is touted as 100% automatic – a home that generates its own electrical power from solar panels and then stores it in a battery backup. Talk about saving it for a rainy day — this place can run efficiently for an entire week without sunlight. I guess that means it wouldn’t work year-round Alaska, but Hawaii (the location of the first zH) sounds like a perfect spot.
Water pumps? Zero. Who needs electrical pumps when you’ve got gravity? After the water is collected into a 2,700 gallon cistern, it’s distributed in a highly complex fashion: it simply rolls down to wherever it’s needed. Amount of organic waste converted into pollution and diverted into nearby streams or creeks? Nada. Everything you flush goes to a subterranean mechanism where it’s converted into compost that only has to be removed twice a year.
Cooler still, everything is connected to sensors and controlled by a centralized laptop known as the “house brain”.
Self-reliant and comfortable. Those are the buzz words buzzing around zH. The self-reliance seems a no-brainer, but comfort-wise, I’m not so sure. Okay, the interior climate is maintained by a centralized heating and cooling system, and the roof, walls and flooring are all insulated with a type of closed-cell structural foam that allows the home to achieve an impressive thermal resistance rating of R-58. But at 650 square feet, it just seems too tiny for true comfort. Especially when you consider that the square footage is divided up among a living room area, a kitchen, a full bath and two bedrooms with “large storage areas”.
But apparently you’re not supposed to live in it. According to architect Scott Specht, zeroHouse was designed for eco-tourism rather than permanent residency. Which means it would be great summer house. (Especially if the summer house was in Hawaii.)
But is it the summer house of the future? Well, it’s a prefab, which I believe to be the home of right now. The $350,000 price tag seems reasonable – especially when you factor in the money you’ll save on utilities over the long haul. And for those impatient home dwellers, the place can allegedly be constructed in one day. (Once you get one, that is. Apparently this item is so hot there’s a wait list.)
But despite the compact factor, I like it. If I were in the market for a vacation spot, I would probably look more closely at the zeroHouse… even though I think “lowmaintenanceHouse” or “coolself-reliantHouse” would have been better names for it.