GBA Logo horizontal Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Picture icon Hamburger Icon Close Icon Sorted

Community and Q&A

What Does Near-Zero Carbon Even Mean?

MartinHolladay | Posted in General Questions on

Is this house “near zero carbon”? What does “near zero carbon” even mean?

All I can determine from the New York Times article about the house is that the fixer-upper was purchased for $2.75 million, and the owners spent another $2 million to fix it up.

Here is the link to the article:

(The article is behind a paywall, but new visitors to the site can, I think, sometimes read one or two articles a month before the paywall stops them.)

GBA Prime

Join the leading community of building science experts

Become a GBA Prime member and get instant access to the latest developments in green building, research, and reports from the field.


  1. Expert Member

    I like the qualifier "near".

    Risible nonsense. It's like me saying I'm "near irresistible".

  2. scottperezfox | | #2

    Definitely a real estate article, rather than a building science or architecture examination. The Times does this all the time.

    But the ideas introduced are sound. Mass timber, modular construction, reclaimed timber flooring milled locally, hemp insulation are all more mindful than typical construction methods and materials. They mention an ERV and air-sealing, so I wonder if this house meets the EnerPHit standard for Passive House retrofits.

    Without seeing the embodied carbon calculations, though, there's no way casual readers can verify "near-zero" anything.

  3. MartinHolladay | | #3

    I'm not sure why using mass timber on a multi-million-dollar single-family residential project in Brooklyn is a "sound idea." It sounds to me as if trees were cut down unnecessarily to meet the whims of wealthy homeowners.

    1. Expert Member
      BILL WICHERS | | #4

      I agree. Building "green" doesn't necassarily mean you had to throw lots of greenbacks at the project. Proper efficient building techniques are supposed to be practical too, and a lot of these really high-budget projects do a lot of things that don't really make sense, or gain very little, if anything, for the money spent.

      It's better to publish articles showing smart reuse of materials (reclaimed insulation, reclaimed hardwoord flooring, etc), and details that gain efficiency without huge amounts of additional cost. Stuff that makes sense for most homes, basically, instead of just for those building with very large budgets.


  4. Expert Member
    DCcontrarian | | #5

    They lost me at "skylight."

  5. Tim_O | | #6

    In my pursuit of being green, I have also planted trees. I try to plant them outside rather than cutting down 10 other trees so I can build a building around one and then adding a skylight so the tree grows in an unnatural location.

    On Malcom's point - it would be interesting to know how "Near-Zero" compares with a production home for a normal single family. I bet carbon emissions per resident are quite high. Maybe per sqft or compared to other opulent neighbors it's low, but that's not really relevant.

  6. StephenSheehy | | #7

    Total cost, a little less than $1500/square foot. Renovation came in at about $700/square foot.
    As for the tree planted inside, it'll almost certainly die. But how much can a little tree cost anyway? Ten grand?

    1. Tim_O | | #8

      Reminds me of the line on Arrested Development - "It's one banana, Michael, what could it cost, $10?"

Log in or create an account to post an answer.


Recent Questions and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |