Mount Holyoke assistant physics professor Alexi Arango built himself a home that ties in well with his coursework. He uses his canary-yellow zero-energy dwelling in Amherst, Massachusetts, which runs entirely on solar power, as a teaching tool for lessons about renewable energy.
Arango also kept a blog following the building process (as one does). The design follows Passivhaus standards, which he describes as a lot more intuitive than one might think: proper ventilation, lots of windows for natural light, and a "tightly-sealed shell." He also notes several practical benefits, including lower energy bills and no noisy heater.
Arango designed certain aspects of the home to serve a specific pedagogical purpose. With a real-time energy-monitoring system, students can download an application and monitor the energy use of everyday tasks. The idea is to be able to turn on a sink and know exactly how much energy is being used.
One student felt so inspired by Arango's project, she told Mount Holyoke she hopes to build a passive house herself some day: "If every person made this choice, we could have a dramatic impact on trying to mitigate climate change, since buildings are a large fraction of our carbon footprint." Sounds like someone is getting an A.