PREFAB FRIDAY: ZeroHouse Shows Nothing is Everything

by , 03/28/08

scott specht, zerohouse, new york architects, self-sufficient home, zero energy home, off grid home, green home, eco home, ecohouse, green house, eco architecture, green building, prefab housing, eco prefab, prefab green, solar powered house, triple glazing, prefabricated housing, modular architecture, zero waste, off-grid

Ever dreamed of owning a completely self-sufficient home that produces its own energy, water, and is completely customizable? New York architect Scott Specht has the answer to all of our zero-energy prefab dreams with the new ZeroHouse™. This completely self-sustaining prefabricated house generates its own power, collects its own water, processes its own waste and is 100% automatic. Versatile, durable and site-sensitive, ZeroHouse can be erected in almost any location in one day with steel frame components and a helical-anchor foundation system that requires no excavation.

High-efficiency solar panels produce power which is then stored by a battery to provide up to a week of power should the sun ever be devoid of enthusiasm. Triple glazing and low-e heat-mirror glass enable the windows to be large without affecting heat levels. Exterior doors are also insulated to further stabilize the house’s temperature.

The robust components enable the building to be used in a variety of remote and hostile locations: places unsuitable for more conventional structures, such as in 10 feet of water of slopes of up to 35 degrees. The house’s tubular steel frame means it can withstand winds of up to 140 mph, despite having foundations that only touch the ground at four points to offer minimum site disturbance.

Such is the nature of future-thinking designs, it’s no surprise to find it comes equipped with sensors that talk to the user’s PC for straightforward(ish) climate control. Programmable, long-life low-energy LED lighting is built into the walls and ceilings to further improve the design’s sustainable aesthetic.

Less high-tech but nevertheless rewarding, the house’s water and waste processing system features rainwater collection facilities, which is then sent though the house via the power of gravity, avoiding unnecessary electricity-hungry pumps. The house’s garden even gets in on the self-sufficiency act, being fed twice a year by the waste that the house collects and turns into compost.

+ ZeroHouse
Via BustaChange

Images: Copyright 2005 Scott Specht Architect LLC

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  1. Rosie September 22, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    How much would this cost to build? =)

  2. Cat August 28, 2008 at 3:43 am

    @ mikeyb66
    A bit off topic, but I think you\’ll find that to \”touch the earth lightly\” has been made renowned by Glenn Murcutt, an Australian architect and Pritzker Prize winner. It is taken from an Aboriginal saying mind you, but at least Murcutt acknowledges this.

  3. kyoung August 25, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Hi Folks,

    I think all of the people (on EcoGeek) who have commented about ZeroHouse, brought up some legitimate pro’s and con’s about the structure, but I think Scott Specht is right on track with his ideas! So much so, that I worry the buildings “aesthetics” will override the
    practical benefits. I guess I’m just one of those who considers what something does, before what it looks like.

    The idea of a self-sustaining human habitat, with zero imprint on the environment has, in my opinion, taken it’s grand old time getting here, but Specht, and others like him, get my standing ovation for their accomplishments.

    From what I’ve read about ZeroHouse, the design can be modified to a certain extent, and one site has different exterior color schemes, including a (well-intentioned) computer-generated margarita lime green. The helical-anchor foundation system requiring no excavation is fantastic! The estimates that it can withstand 140 mph winds has yet to be tested in actuality, but one commenter from another site suggested uprights on the corners of the solar array if that’s the worry. If winds like that hit you, anything left standing is amazing. Building profile and prevailing winds should always be taken into consideration. Seeing as I’m talking function over form here, why not put the building on a circular “lazy-susan” type swivel track, with a wind generator to boot. More free energy?

    One good point brought up here was the “totally automatic” nature of the building. It’s nice to have automatic things, but if my laptop crashes, I don’t want my living environment to stop functioning. I’m sure that a small, wall-mounted “brain” could be installed as primary or back up.

    I believe ZeroHouse was (ideally) designed for latitudes 37 degrees north/ south. That covers a lot of ground, but I’d like to have one full-time at about 40 degrees latitude in Pennsylvania. I’m sure that could be solved as well. My only other concern is potable water, safe for drinking. The 2,700 gal. storage capacity is excellent, but unfortunately, the acidity of today’s’ “falling water” is off-the-chart low in ph. Has this been addressed?

    The price for ZeroHouse…$$$$! No kidding! The first basic LED watches were about $500 smackers when they came out. (First seen on-screen in James Bond, Live & Let Die). Now they’re in the Dollar Store. Yes, the price will come down.

    In closing, ZeroHouse is a 9 out of 10 in my book! If a prototype ever gets built in the NJ/NY/PA area, I’ll be the first one there, and promote it with the one I buy…when the price drops…(cough)…. a little. Now, if the nice folks on the local zoning board agree, hmmm…I’ll be all set. Bravo Scott!!

  4. Dzzitmatr June 25, 2008 at 7:19 pm


    The concept seems like a neat idea minus the bogus over-sized screws for secure its base which i seriously doubt would be effective if a major devastating type of tornado or hurricane where to strike not to mention how more than likely the rest of the house may or may not be built to withstand such pressures or the key points where each section is adjoined yet even so i’m betting that the solar array doodad on the rooftop under such heavy forces would either be completely be ripped right off or serve as a freakin propeller sending mission control way out of kansas :)
    Secondly any yo yo with a decent pc and some knowledge of 3d modeling/rendering and/or with decent house designing apps/skills can come up with a neat design perhaps as practical however if it is a design that is not easily affordable than common sense would dictate that it will cater predominantly to a select market because of its cost, thats where the problem is as most living quite comfortable lifestyles in expensive mansions i seriously doubt will trade in their chips to live in a bird cage by comparison so in essence it might serve or be bought as more of a curio or spare part time cabin then for its actual value as an eco friendly self sustaining or even off the grid type of unit and i don’t know about you but i’d rather have my product genuinely appreciated rather than just casually glanced at or purchased by some mummy .
    Thirdly if a separate piece of block or heavy base were incorporated below the entire unit itself this would serve to securely bolt the unit aptly without having the need to worry about damaging any underlying ground as a heavy enough understructure or base thoroughly securing it would thus insure that not even a hurricane would initiate a mission control type liftoff of the unit while the base design itself could be useful and esthetically designed perhaps not only as a more secure base to hold the unit but also serve to rotate the entire suprastructure via its computer control console giving consumers the option to change their panoramic view of the outside (Oh boy i may have created a monster and watch the price really balloon now.. lol).
    Last but not least if the price of the unit were significantly lower or at a fraction of the cost than that which is suggested for “Zerohouse” you’d have a viable unit and a strong market making a case for genuine eco friendly lifestyles as everyone from timbucktwo would praise its appeal making this offer seem more like an actual mansion and a steal of a deal because of the fact that it is well within reach and easier to achieve this truly appreciate rather than just as a birdcage to some well off mummy that already has it all or whom could use new toy for being away for a quick one from home.

    NUFF Said.

  5. Lisa W May 1, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    Does it fly? ‘Cause it looks like it might.

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  12. mikeyb66 April 1, 2008 at 10:00 am

    @ Brian Lang,

    Your right it is 2700 gallons, I made a typo. You also highlight the point that it is quite site specific.

    @ WBrooke

    Whilst I agree that it appears they are suggesting all water will be from precipitation the issue I have is with the location of the tank. From the cut-away view it appears as though the tank is above most of the horizontal surface area. This means water will have to be pumped up to the tank from these areas.

    @ Androo,

    I have no actual data that I can direct you to but i took this from what I have read and been told from environmental specialiasts.

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  17. badhuman March 31, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    The house looks and sounds really cool and green but I always wonder how livable some of these prefab houes are.

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  25. Brian Lang March 28, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    @mikeyb66: IT’s not 4.5 gallons, it’s 2700 gallons according to the website. That’s about 10220 litres. Since 1 litre = 1 kg (close enough), that’s about 10.2 metric tonnes (11.2 tons imperial) of water when full. 10 tons of water on the roof of a metal framed building (presumably steel) still exerts a LOT of force on the four anchor points.
    This is a rain water collection system. What do you do in dryer climates? Or during the peak of summer when it doesn’t rain enough to fill it? From that perspective, pumps will be required.

  26. Joyce March 28, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    It looks like the house of the future has landed! What an amazing innovation!

  27. Androo March 28, 2008 at 11:40 am

    Mikey, what are you basing that photovoltaic life-cycle analysis on? Everything that I have read is contrary to that, especially when you look at thin-film photovoltaics with have a trade-off in conversion efficiency, but dramatically lower manufacturing costs.

  28. WBrooke March 28, 2008 at 11:03 am

    To mikeyb66,

    I believe the idea is that all of the water for this building would come from precipitation, so they are correct in saying they don\\\’t have any pumping costs to get water into the elevated tanks.

  29. mikeyb66 March 28, 2008 at 7:04 am

    This reminds me of the Micro Compact Home but on a larger scale. The article talks about only touching the ground with 4 points so as to avoid site disturbance and this also reminds me of Richard Hordens Mantra ‘touch the earth lightly’ The design looks quite simple and it would be quite interesting to see how the propose getting the prefab units to site. The mCH was designed to be lifted by a helicopter so had to be efficient in terms of structure to minimise weight. I am not so sure this structure is quite as efficient but I guess there is a trade off. The article also talks of not needing to pump the water through the house but on relying on gravity. However as the tank is above 2/3 of the roof areas, how do they propose that water gets into the tank? There is also another balance here. A 4.5 gallon tank of water when full will weigh just over 12 tons. That is a lot of weight for the structure to hold. I also think it is a shame that wind power hasn’t been included. PCV are good at producing electricity but when more energy is needed to manufacture them than they will produce in a lifetime then they are not the only answer. Whilst I may have been pedantic about the other points, I feel this one is much more valid. Also, I am not sure what is so ‘Zero’ about it. Considering the energy required to create it there is no actual payback. it supports itself once constructed but does nothing to try and repay the carbon debt that was used to create it. Overall I am glad that people are thinking about these issues and they are heading in the right direction but I think we still have a long way to go.

  30. Johnny K – Prefab... March 28, 2008 at 6:39 am

    […] before but I couldn’t remember it’s name so I couldn’t find the link. Thanks to Inhabitat I now know the name and have the link. So if you want to see an example of a super prefab, that […]

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