To the Editor: As its first net-zero energy development, Springleaf is a handsome and wonderful contribution to the extraordinary green building scene in Boulder (First Zero-Energy Takes Root in Boulder, Sat. 11/28). Nevertheless I would like to straighten out some misinformation in the article. The article makes it seem as if between the time that the “tinkerers” worked on their homes to make them net-zero energy a few years ago, and the very high end $600-$800/SF net-zero energy homes built more recently, nothing was done. The NZE House, of which I am the architect and homeowner, was completed almost a year ago. Although we didn’t have the economy of scale of a development, our costs, including the land, were around $300/SF, similar to Springleaf. The house is performing very well and is on target to be net-zero energy it’s first year. And we were just as ambitious architecturally as Springleaf. There are other similar examples around town. In addition, we did decide to install a solar thermal evacuated-tube system for space heating and domestic hot water. This has been performing extraordinarily well. In Boulder’s sunny climate, my analysis was that such a system was cheaper than geothermal after you add in the cost of the additional PV panels needed to run the geothermal heat pump. If one doesn’t have great solar access, or live in a less sunny climate, I would go the other way. And I believe that the idea that a solar thermal system is complicated, which is implied in the article, I believe is a myth- it is no more complicated than other hydronic systems than use pipes, a couple of electronic controls, pumps, and valves- what you would see in the ubiquitous in-floor radiant heat installations. It’s hard enough to convince clients that going green can be a great investment without their local paper scaring them about huge costs and overly complicated systems.
Michael Kracauer, LEED AP