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Alstonvale Net Zero House runs entirely off renewable resources

Image provided by Sevag Pogharian

 Seveg Pogharian is proving that not all houses have to be energy-guzzlers. In fact, they can create energy.

 Pogharian, an architect from Montreal came to the Globe 2010 environmental conference in Vancouver this week to speak about a home designed as an entry in an energy-efficiency contest, a house made to create as much energy as it consumes.   

 “Alstonvale Net Zero House”  produces enough energy to function AND powers an electric car, and will produce enough natural food to feed a single family.

“Given how bleak with future is in terms of global energy, what we decided to do, was go beyond the scope of the competition’s objective,” said Pogharian at the Globe conference on Friday. “We decided to -- demonstrate the attainability of the net-zero energy [drawing energy from renewable resources] lifestyle, even within our cold northern climate.”

According to Natural Resources Canada, a regular home in Canada uses an estimated 40,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year to meet the home’s basic needs, while the Alstonvale Net-Zero House only uses around 7000 kilowatts, and this will  eventually be reduced to zero-energy. On average, the utility bill for the home will come to about $144 per year.

“These results come from off-the-shelf products, and off-the-shelf materials,” Pogharian said. “All it requires is thought.”

The home will allow for 2.2 kilowatts of electricity to go towards the energy of an electric car, which will be connected to the home. The car will also provide a source of emergency power to the home, which can be transferred from the car’s battery to the home in the case of a power-loss situation. The car will ultimately be built into the home to create a power system that is both practical and sustainable.

After achieving the energy needed for the homes basic needs, and creating power for vehicle transpiration, the project's next goal is to produce food.

“If you're interested in reducing energy, you have to address food,” Pogharian said. “There was a time when all the food energy of the planet came directly from the sun. Today’s industrialized agricultural system however, has a vastly different energy balance.”

According to Pogharian’s presentation at Globe 2010, one calorie of energy used historically has resulted in one calorie of food. This was the natural method of production, but with today’s food production industry, almost 10 calories of energy is needed to produce one calorie of food. This includes farming, processing, packaging and transportation of the food.

“That is a system than is unsustainable,” Pogharian said.

To solve the issue of food production, the house landscaping will be made entirely of edible plantation. This will also include a greenhouse, which will be located on the property, which is also to be powered through renewable resources. The house will have two hens onsite, alongside a pond which can occasionally provide fish for consumption, another way of providing sustainable food sources.

All together, the home provides shelter, mobility, and food, all through solar energy, without the production of greenhouse gas emissions.

“If you have a problem to solve, the worst way of approaching the problem would be to solve one problem today, one problem tomorrow, and the third problem on the third day,” Pogharian said. “The far better way of solving these three problems, would be to pause, think, and with one graceful swing of the sabre, take all three of them down.” That is the story I’m trying to tell.”

As the Alstonvale Net Zero House Project moves into its final stages, the architect has plans to present the project on a much larger scale.

“This house is nearing completion,” Pogharian said. “We just started working on a net zero [natural resource-powered] energy neighborhood.”



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