Net Zero Energy Homes for a Cleaner Healthier Future


Under the California Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan, the state has ambitious goals for the development of zero net energy buildings. All new residential construction will be zero net energy (ZNE) as of January of this year. What is a Net Zero Energy home? In a nutshell, NZE homes produce the same amount of energy that they use over the course of the year and do so by utilizing sustainable technologies to produce power such as solar panels.

Our firm designed a prefabricated NZE home in Mill Valley that employed a unique structural bamboo framing system. See drone footage of the home here:

NZE homes are healthy, clean, energy efficient and comfortable to live in. The NZE house is located in the northern California city of Mill Valley, on a north facing slope amidst tree covered hills. The homeowners had lived on the property with their family for years. The original property layout had a southwest style residence, an aging tennis court and pool on level ground, downslope of the main residence. The existing house was dark and cold and the family suffered from health issues related to mold that had accumulated over the years. The possibilities for remodeling were untenable prompting the clients to tear down the existing home and start anew. Collaborative execution was at the core of the project and punctuates our process.

We placed the house on the level ground where the old tennis court was located. Orienting the house on a north-south axis maximizes morning and evening light, creating a bright and warm atmosphere. Punctuating the North end of the property is an art and writing studio which helps to enclose a lap pool and native gardens.

The design of the new house utilizes many sustainable solutions. These sustainable features are integrated into a sleek, minimal design. Warm wood tones and clean lines combine to create a simple and warm aesthetic, inspired by traditional Scandinavian design. Prefabricated bamboo panels from BamCore replace traditional wood stud construction, reducing thermal bridging and maximizing insulation. A south facing solar array mounted on the studio roof provides sufficient energy to heat the residence. The combination of solar power and east-west facing glazing translates into a low energy footprint. The design incorporates water efficiency as well. Gray water from bathroom sinks and showers is filtered and delivered to the surrounding native gardens. The butterfly roof is dual purposed: it allows light to flood the house and additionally funnels rainwater to bioswales, restoring groundwater on the property. The bioswales in turn protect the creek that borders the property.

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help with a design project. We can be found here:

Daniel Weaver, Uli Zinnkann, and Luis Garcia.