Project manager Ian Bolliger walks past the Tiny House in my Backyard project home being constructed in Richmond, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2016. UC Berkeley students are putting the finishing touches on a 171-square-foot eco-tiny house that will be entered into the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District’s tiny house competition. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)[/caption]In an era of global warming, declining potable water and rising housing prices, how do you build a house that has all the amenities but leaves a small carbon footprint?
Four Bay Area teams are racing the clock to answer the question, part of a regional competition that is asking the next generation of architects, builders and urban planners to design a net-zero tiny house that, at minimum, produces all the energy it will use.
The teams — all students from local universities and community colleges — have been working for two years on their projects and will showcase their creations to the public starting Oct. 15 at a competition organized by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, a nonprofit community-owned electric utility.
“Right now, the energy environment is changing is so fast, customers are having a hard time evaluating what makes sense,” said Jacobe Caditz, a supervisor at the Energy Education and Technology Center at SMUD. “Tiny houses are really popular and incorporate a lot of these new energy-efficient strategies, so it’s easy for people to see it all in one place and get excited about them.”
Each of the homes is as different as the students building them but must be under 400 square feet and be built to RV industry standards, meaning they will be on wheels and transportable.
UC Berkeley’s entry features a 170-square-foot home with a radiant floor that moves heat using water and a battery and hot water tank that both store energy generated by rooftop solar panels. To warm the house, a heat pump compresses outside air using carbon dioxide as a refrigerant instead of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are much stronger greenhouse gases. Planter boxes attached on the side of the home serve as a biofiltration system for grey water, allowing for reuse of shower and sink outflow.
“It often feels like sustainability and affordability are at odds with each other, which is something we’re trying to change,” said Laney Siegner, a student in the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley and one of about 17 students participating in the project.