The Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities (CGBC) revealed its centerpiece initiative, the HouseZero project, last month, and CGBC founding director Ali Malkawi recently conducted a Q&A with the Harvard Gazette to offer an inside look at the ambitious venture.
“Being in a university setting and having the knowledge that we have accumulated, we thought it would be important to be able to see what we can do with existing technologies and design ideas that enable us to have ambitions that have not been met before, as well as change the perception about certain challenges that we have in relation to the built environment,” Malkawi tells the Gazette.
With the HouseZero project, Malkawi, who also is professor of architectural technology at the GSD, aims to turn the CGBC’s Cambridge headquarters into a building that uses as little energy, materials, and resources as possible. Among other design and engineering elements, HouseZero’s HVAC system will be replaced with thermal mass, and a ground source heat pump for extreme cold. A solar vent will instigate buoyancy-driven ventilation and triple-glazed windows will employ natural cross ventilation through a manual and automated system that monitors for temperature, humidity, and air quality.
“Though this is a stick-frame building, the same ideas can be applied to other types of homes or structures throughout the world,” Malkawi tells the Gazette. “We will be able to translate some of our learning lessons, not just now but as it evolves. It’s not about globalization. It’s about localization related to principles that can then be applied.”