ENERTIA   HOMES No Fuel? No Power? .......No Problem


Natural Forces Combine with Renewable Materials to Create Elegant, Off-the-Grid Designs at Enertia Building Systems, Inc.

by Gregg Freeman

What can we do to nudge the construction industry to use less energy and materials and aid nature's capacity for rejuvenation? The living spaces designed by Enertia Building Systems (EBS), Inc. offer an affordable and attractive answer.

Inside an Enertia Home

The visionaries at EBS, Inc. have patented a fuel-less, allergen-free house for living that is about to create a storm of interest. While a typical house built to 1996 standards finds itself obsolete before the roof goes on, an Enertia home is designed with future upgrades in mind. An Enertia home uses "open-channel" architecture to ensure that new technology can be added with ease. You can easily assemble the kits offered by Enertia and - one assumes - just as easily disassemble the house at the end of its life cycle (sometime in the 23rd century, perhaps). The Enertia home is resistant to fire, wind, water, vermin, insects, bullets, and even earthquakes - features not guaranteed in your typical stick-built, sheetrocked, particle boarded house.

The real beauty of these affordable buildings, in both the aesthetic and ethical sense, is in the way they reach an equilibrium with their surrounds, much as any living, breathing organism would.

In an Enertia home, you can witness nature's closed-looped ecosystemic model in a series of elegantly simple, and simply elegant, designs. EBS, Inc. uses a solid-wood inner shell envelope, or airflow and access channel, just inside the outer walls. In effect, this forms a house within a house, allowing solar-heated air to circulate. The design also taps into the geothermal reserve just beneath the house to augment the insolation-derived heat. Flows through the house are thermally and gravity driven, and are reversed for cooling purposes. This "cross-enhancement" allows the house to make more energy than it uses and to "float" between day and night, and even seasonal cycles. Thus, the lucky inhabitants line in an all-season comfort zone free from life-support machines.

You're thinking an Enertia home must be one high-tech hut, right? Wrong. For example, you will not find any heat pump. The whole house is a heat pump. There's no air-conditioning unit of any kind. The same flows that keep the north wall warm in the winter keep it cool in summer.

But what if everyone built homes like Enertia's? Renewable resources remain so only if they are harvested in a biologically sustainable manner and the system that produces them stays healthy. It is true that wood is a renewable resource - but aren't solid wooden walls a bit extravagant? Let's turn to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for an answer. In 1981, NIST put up six buildings and tested them for energy efficiency. The test structure made with solid wood walls took first prize. Goodbye siding, framing, insulation and paneling. Hello "energy-engineered wood." The phenomenon of "thermal inertia", known intuitively among log structure dwellers since prehistory, surprised folks at NIST and inspired those at Enertia. But it is the simplification of both product and process that give Enertia homes a natural edge in the construction industry.

Gregg Freeman is a Business Ecology Network co-founder and the professional development director for BEN.

This article is reprinted with the permission of the Business Ecology Network.