A net zero brownstone means that it consumes a net zero amount of energy, meaning over time it creates as much energy on site as it consumes. It does this by using very little amounts of energy (few and efficient appliances that are sparingly used) and producing a lot of energy (lots of solar panels on the roof and south facing wall.

A net zero energy brownstone may supply more energy than it needs during peak demand and other times produce less than it needs but over the entire period of time (one year typically) it either consumes the same or less than what it produces.

Net zero has a lot to do with electricity but it also considers all forms of fuel, such as gas and maybe wood if the brownstone has a wood fireplace.

People get into all sorts of fancy calculations for a net zero house. You can convert the gas into equivalent measurements of electrical energy to determine if your solar electrical usage covers the gas used.

Another element that can be part of the mix is a net zero water consumption where the house consumers the same amount of water as it produces. It does this by reducing water use through low flow fixtures, careful water use and recycling gray water from sinks and showers for toilets.

A Brooklyn brownstone can also gather rain water for use in toilets. It can also be treated with UV light and a mild chlorine mix to make it useable in showers and even for drinking. It can be done safely. But good luck getting that one by the Brooklyn Department of Buildings.

I don’t know of any net zero Brooklyn brownstones. But it is Eco Brooklyn’s goal to make one.

In the search for examples I came across the book “Net Zero” put out by a team of designers and architects at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design and Architecture.

The book was based on a study for a a net zero student building in Philadelphia and because Philadelphia has very similar row house architecture as Brooklyn I had hoped the book would enlighten me on how to make a net zero Brooklyn brownstone.

Unfortunately it didn’t.

The book is an orgasm of fancy terms and an overkill of useless images. Ok, I’m being harsh.

But judge for yourself:

“The studio will follow broadly biomimetic approach to the project, studying housing typologies and their variations at one scale, and the corresponding varieties of selective or variable skins at a smaller scale. Radical techniques of variation and hybridization will be used with rigorous performance analysis to develop and refine project proposals.”

A biomimetic what?!

If I’m not mistaken that paragraph says: Using nature as a guide we will show unique kinds of building envelopes. But we’re going to say it in a fancy way so that we all know we belong to the same elite club.”

The images are no less self masturbatory. Hey look! I think I learned how to use this program!

Then you have lots of pictures of the team giving each other presentations.

I guess this is what passes for sex amongst architects.

The truth is that this book is not much use unless you have the presenters explaining the images and concepts behind them. And the book was expensive!

Sure I get the basic concepts but because the book is so specialized you really get the real value through explanation. Unfortunately it isn’t any use to my immediate need: gaining knowledge to help Eco Brooklyn in its goal to make a net zero Brooklyn brownstone.

We are getting there.