English architect John Christophers and his wife retrofitted their 19th-century two-bedroom brick house and turned it into a completely carbon-neutral home (a home that generates as much energy as it consumes). Their first step in the process was removing the radiators, the gas stove, the fireplaces, the inefficient lighting and plumbing fixtures, and the non-insulated windows. Then they worked on making all the necessary improvements:
They preserved the original brick facade, but installed a new roof and replaced many of the walls, filling both the old and new ones with extra-strength insulation. They also put in new triple-glazed windows, so a conventional heating system was unnecessary, but they installed a wood-burning stove for the few weeks a year when the temperature drops, and a ventilation system to remove warm and humid air.
Skylights and a series of mirrors were strategically placed to direct natural light to the lower levels of the three-story home, keeping electricity costs to a minimum. On the roof, gutters carry rain down to a tank in the basement, providing most of their water supply; solar panels convert energy into electricity that feeds back into the national grid.
The end result is a house that is "like a sunflower," as Ms. Christophers says, because "it maximizes natural light and relies on solar energy from up above."
Read more about this home in this article from The New York Times, and check out Mr. Christopher's blog on the whole renovation, with more photos and project details, at Under the Sun: A Carbon Neutral Home in Birmingham, UK.
(Images: Under the Sun)