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PlusEnergy Buildings: A Carbon Neutral Future, Today

Monica Mosure

July 18, 2013

Our guest blogger for this post is Christopher McClintock, a Northland High School student participating in Project Lead the Way in the Columbus area.


A PlusEnergy building runs on 100 percent renewable energy, is carbon  neutral, and produces more energy than it uses. It goes without saying that this type of building is an achievement considering today’s energy demands across a variety of climates.


Solar is, thus far, the primary renewable resource that has been used for PlusEnergy buildings due to its smaller space requirements and low level of maintenance. Geothermal, due to its size and location requirements, is a poor renewable candidate for urban settings. Hydroelectric generators require a larger river to work, and wind energy is expensive to put up and difficult to maintain, which makes both of these resources unrealistic for most urban environment settings.


A PlusEnergy expert, Rolf Disch has designed many works of PlusEnergy architecture. Much of his work resides in Freiberg, Germany, examples of which include the following below. Information about these projects was obtained from Rolf Disch’s website.


  • Solar Settelement: The Solar Settlement consists of 59 homes divided among 11,000 square meters. The maximum yearly energy generated is 420,000 kWh from a total photovoltaic output of 445 kW, which saves 200,000 liters of oil and 500 tons of carbon emissions a year. Impressive!


  • The Sun Ship:The Sun Ship stretches 125 meters along a major road as a sound barrier for the Solar Settlement. It has three above ground stories with a northern front section that is five stories and two underground levels with storage rooms and 138 parking places for both it and the Solar Settlement. The roof has garden landscaping with nine penthouses embedded for the Solar Settlement. It’s built upon a reinforced concrete supporting structure with triple insulated windows, vacuum insulation panels, and a wooden façade. It generates 1,000,000 kWh of energy annually.


  • The Heliotrope:The Heliotrope rotates on its base to follow the sun throughout the day. It utilizes this in the winter by pointing triple paned, thermally insulated windows to absorb heat. In the summer, highly thermally insulated walls help protect the building from the heat. This building saves energy by utilizing solar heat, earth-to-air heat exchangers, a wood pellet oven, ventilation with heat recovery, and low temperature radiant ceiling and floor heating. Also it collects rainwater to filter and reuse, garbage and human waste is decomposed in an odorless dry composting, and sewage water is clarified in a vegetated cascade pond in the home’s front yard. It produces energy with a large mounted photovoltaic unit on the roof.


These are just a few of our favorite sustainable buildings from Rolf Disch. It is our hope that in the future more designers and builders will start to incorporate these same design principals into buildings.


Do you have any favorite sustainable buildings or designers? If so, let us know! Leave us the information in the reply section below.