Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Building(s) for our Future

Bill_copyright Jon Gilbert Fox_grayBook Review by N. R. Mallery

The New Net Zero

Leading-Edge Design and Construction of Homes and Buildings for a Renewable Energy Future

by William Maclay and Maclay Architects, Chelsea Green Publishing, 553 pages, $90.00

Bill Maclay’s expertise as an architect for our future — as a leader and example for the right way to build for our future — is absolutely clear in this new book. I believe it will be held as the bible for sustainable building going forward.

NewNetZero_hires_cover_grayWe have reported on many of Maclay’s energy efficient projects in the past, starting with the Putney School’s Field House, in Putney, Vermont. I have seen it first-hand and can attest to the fact that this is a net-zero masterpiece. The Field House,  incorporates building efficiency, energy efficiency, renewable energy (solar photovoltaics), composting toilets and ecological design, all in a healing, inviting environment.

Maclay’s goals were met, and the results from the project were quickly proven successful. Green Energy Times proudly covered the story of this accomplishment and printed a copy of the building’s first electric bill after the construction was completed. Don Cuerdon, the director of communications of The Putney School, excitedly shared the bill with us, to print on the front cover of the May 4, 2010 Issue, of Green Energy Times. The $69.72 credit on the invoice from Green Mountain Power evidenced the achievement of this net-zero school project.

Stone House. Photo by Carol Stenberg.

Stone House. Photo by Carol Stenberg.

This is the way we need to build, on every scale, small and large. This is how we reduce your energy needs. This is how we reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are being leaked into our atmosphere, adding to the already dangerous CO2 levels we are dealing with today. This is what we need to leave for our children and future generations, as they rebuild with sustainability in mind.

In The New Net Zero, architect Bill Maclay outlines the path to energy independence for our future. Nearly 40% of our country’s total fossil fuel usage is in buildings. The book enticingly explains and charts the net-zero field of study, with information on buildings that have achieved high performance and affordability goals. He explains materials, integrated design practices, including renewable energy options, practical construction details, case studies and more. Institutional buildings, commercial buildings, residential, new construction and renovations of historic buildings are all covered in detail. Considerations for air, water, insulation, vapor barriers, embodied energy, materials, costs, monitoring, and commissioning are all discussed thoroughly.

A few local examples of ecologically impressive facilities include the Renewable NRG Systems, Inc. in Hinesburg, VT, George D. Aiken Center home of The Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont ,and The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. The UVM facility is a “living building” design that includes a solarium and an Eco-Machine for treating waste

The book clearly explores the building enclosure. It also covers such heating and cooling systems as air- and ground- source heat pumps that have had great success in net-zero and net-zero-ready buildings. Windows and doors, along with proper installation and sealing for new and existing buildings are discussed in detail. Building sites and orientation to maximize benefits from the sun, views, lighting and functionality are also discussed.

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Garden View. Courtesy of Robert Benson

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Garden View. Courtesy of Robert Benson

I found myself reading it into the wee hours of the morning, eager to learn more. It is written for both professionals and nonprofessionals, anyone eager to learn what options are available. It will be valuable to communities and individuals alike. Ideas, examples and strategies with beautifully efficient results powered by clean, renewable energy are professionally discussed on the pages.

Maclay’s offices in Waitsfield, Vermont, and his home both speak well of an author who “walks the talk.” He has been committed to creating a fossil-free future since 1970. This award-winning architect developed, designed and built one of the first renewable communities in the country here in Vermont. Today his architecture and planning firm specializes in ecologically oriented and net-zero design.

The New Net Zero really leaves nary a stone unturned. If there is one book that really covers how to achieve a built environment that will sustain us, this is it.

Green Energy Times highly recommends this book.

N. R. Mallery is the founder and publisher of Green Energy Times.

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