A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
April 5, 2007 Volume 37 / Number 6


Sun Shines on Zero Energy Housing


Greg Kallio, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Mechatronic Engineering, and Manufacturing Technology, has been awarded a Lantis Professorship that will allow him to build on work already begun with colleagues on developing design guidelines for Zero Energy Homes (ZEH) in the North State.

Kallio started working seriously on the idea of ZEH during fall 2006 with two colleagues, Dan Toy from Business, whose primary interest is marketing and consumer behavior, and Steve Dennis, Recreation and Parks Management, whose expertise is in the area of environmental impact. As a multidisciplinary team, they began working on the challenge of designing a ZEH that is affordable, aesthetic, and as comfortable as a conventional home.

The time seems right to pursue such a goal, as the costs of energy-efficient building and solar technologies have decreased, complemented by increases in federal and state incentives. The National Association of Home Builders has predicted that ZEH concepts will diffuse into the U.S. housing market in the next several years and be responsible for reducing residential energy use by 19 percent by 2050, while the number of total homes will increase by 39 percent.

An Environmental Creativity Research Grant from the Bidwell Environmental Institute (BEI) to Kallio, Toy, Dennis, and Kristin Cooper-Carter (Concrete Industry Management) in June 2006 supported a year-long projected titled “Sustainable Residential Construction Practices for the North State.”

The objective of the grant was to accumulate, translate, and disseminate cost-benefit information that would allow the local building industry and homeowners to compare the value of various green technologies. After examining many available designs, they decided to focus on wall systems. These include conventional stick frame, optimal value engineering stick frame, structural insulated panels, integrated concrete forms, and other thermal mass wall designs.

Kallio’s Lantis Professorship will extend the BEI grant work done on wall systems to include computer simulations of ZEH that incorporate thermal mass wall systems, a survey of advanced cooling systems, and the integration of photovoltaic and thermal systems. The latter are known as PVT hybrid systems, which can provide both electricity and water/space heating with less roof real estate and higher efficiency. Kallio will focus on specific building energy systems that hold promise for the northern Sacramento Valley region and will include students in many phases of the research and testing.

The team (Kallio ,Toy, and Dennis) is also developing a longer-term project proposal for the California Energy Commission Building Energy Research Grant Program to conduct (1) computer energy simulations of entire homes, (2) experimental testing of specific building components, and (3) experimental testing of entire buildings. The latter objective will require the construction of small test homes outfitted with sensors and instrumentation that will demonstrate how various construction designs and energy systems work in different climate zones.

Kallio is excited to launch this project in green building during a time when our earth’s finite resources and human impact to the planet are finally receiving due attention. The Lantis project is essentially a culmination of his 18 years of teaching in the energy sciences, his efforts to develop renewable energy labs for students, his past research in air pollution control, and his passion for promoting energy efficiency. He feels fortunate to have colleagues who are equally committed to this venture and to work at a university where sustainability has become a strategic priority.