Carbon-Free Chicago

August 22, 2011
The Windy City’s first net-zero-energy home employs a butterfly roof and other smart design ideas to help it unplug from the grid.

Homes are responsible for 23 percent of the energy used in the US and 18 percent of carbon emissions. In cities like Chicago, where the temperature can vary by 100 degrees, heating and cooling bills can be bank-breakers. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Five years ago, local architecture and urban-design firm Farr Associates was asked to solve the problem. The company built a 2,600-square-foot house that is now “very, very close” to generating all of its own power, architect Jonathan Boyer says. The owners and designers continue to tweak the tech, and he’s expecting net-zero energy use in the next year-end report. Here’s a look at how it works.