14 May 2021
The House That Could Start a Revolution
All those expensive solutions to sustainable ecologically friendly houses may be dead in the water thanks to Randy Hafer and the house he has built in Billings, Montana. The Urban Frontier House aims to turn the notion of a house with a reduced ecological footprint into an affordable reality for everyone.
Something magic has happened in The Magic City, Billings, Montana: a fascinating project that explores practical applications of sustainability. The Urban Frontier House won the Residential Building Honor Award in 2016 for Comprehensive Sustainability, and as well as being a beautiful building to look at, it provides very affordable and scalable solutions to the problems of producing an energy-efficient house.
The house has no mechanical heating or cooling system, being heated and cooled from the daily activity of the occupants.
The house has no mechanical heating or cooling system, being heated and cooled passively through solar heat and the heat from the daily activity of the occupants. This works in tandem with structural insulated panels (SIPS) that overlap to create an insulated envelope. SIPS are prefabricated solid sheets that consist of a foam core surrounded on each side by oriented strand board which is similar to particle board. SIPS are usually used as walls and roofs, but they can be used for floors as well. In this instance, they are being used for the walls. Ventilation comes by way of opening the windows and solar-powered skylights, that are complemented with ceiling fans from Big Ass Solutions.
It has no gas utility, city water, sewer service, or septic system. The aim is to have no connection to the electrical grid, but the owners plan to stay connected to make sure their calculations were correct and the house produces enough electricity. The power will come from the 2.2 kilowatt solar array and a vertical axis wind turbine, all run through a battery-powered microgrid. The water source is collected rainwater that is stored in 1,500-gallon tanks in the basement, and the house will also use treated greywater (water from sinks, showers, baths, clothes and dishwashers) in another 1,500-gallon tank. The greywater then takes care of future needs for toilets, washing clothes, dishes and irrigation. Organic waste will be processed through a Phoenix composter.
. . . it embodies a lot of ideas that can really drive economic growth and innovation in an area when they are utilized.
Whether or not the Urban Frontier House, designed and built by High Plains Architects, was constructed with any of this in mind, it embodies a lot of ideas that can really drive economic growth and innovation in an area when they are utilized.