LENOIR CITY, TN — The construction of up to 20 Habitat for Humanity houses using renewable energy and energy-efficient building technologies — resulting in net-zero energy homes that generate as much energy as they consume — is underway at the Harmony Heights subdivision in Lenoir City. The technologies will be tested through the Buildings Technology Center at the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

The new homes, which will showcase various technologies, will provide living laboratories for developing integrated building systems that lead toward net-zero energy houses of many types by 2010.

Jeff Christian, director of the Buildings Technology Center, said that the effort is part of DOE’s Building America program, which has resulted in more than 14,000 homes around the country employing energy-efficient features.

“Building America designs for this area can save from 50 to 70 percent on energy requirements and at little or no extra cost to the builder over his previous construction methods,” stated Christian.

“The majority of the new houses in this development will be prototypes of net-zero energy designs. The houses will ultimately be equipped to export more energy produced on-site than imported from off-site on an annual basis. Enabling production technologies include solar photovoltaics (PV), biomass-microturbines, fuel cells, and thermal and electric storage.”

The first net-zero energy home in the subdivision now under construction will use structural insulated panels, a raised metal-seamed roof, a biomass-fired microturbine, 2-kW PV solar panels, and a hydronic heating system.

Christian said the houses will demonstrate technologies now available and under development at DOE and around the country.

“These houses will show builders, utilities, and homeowners the ‘leapfrog’ integrated technologies available today, as well as those on the near horizon that will be marketable by 2010,” he said.

“We hope to encourage local contractors to become DOE’s Building America partners and provide them an opportunity to learn the cutting edge of energy-efficient construction,” Christian remarked. “The bottom line is an opportunity to construct more energy-efficient homes and take advantage of the national exposure offered by DOE’s Building America program.”

— Greg Mazurkiewicz

Publication date: 07/22/2002