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Passive dream home makes a case for energy independence

California’s Casa Aguila is the ultimate eco-conscious house

Welcome to Home of the Future, a four-part video series co-produced by Curbed and The Verge. Each month, we'll take you inside one innovative home and explore how the technology of today informs the way people will live in the future. To follow along, stay tuned for new video episodes on our Facebook page. This month’s location? The ultimate eco-conscious home.

From solar roofs to advanced home batteries to designer rainwater harvesting barrels, we live in an age where if you want to do something eco-friendly with your house, there’s probably a solution out there. This couldn’t have been more true for California couple Pete Beauregard and Amy McQuillan, who truly pulled out all the stops to build Casa Aguila, their energy-independent passive dream house in Ramona, California.

After losing a home to wildfires in 2007, Beauregard and McQuillan set out to build as green a house as possible and one that can also withstand fires and winds common to the region. They enlisted architect Andrew Wilt and Alliance Green Builders for the project, and in January 2016, Casa Aguila was completed as Southern California’s first Certified Passive House.

KNB Associates

Covering 3,123 square feet, Casa Aguila features double-studded walls filled with cellulose insulation to keep the space airtight and cool, as well as triple-glazed “bullet proof” glass for protection against wildfires and wind debris. And when it comes to sustainability, Casa Aguila is like a case study house that, in the words of Alliance Green Builders president Jeff Adams, “engulfs everything that you can think of in all the different degrees of green building construction.”

It starts with a system of three large dual-axis solar trackers, each with 24 photovoltaic panels that move with the sun and are strong enough to resist 75 mph winds. Then there is the 3.2 kW wind turbine that looks more like a kinetic sculpture. These sources of renewable energy are stored in a 40kW battery system, which powers the house, reserving the grid for back-up energy only. The team plans to take the house fully “off the grid” (defined as the ability to store up to three days worth of energy) once they obtain a larger commercial battery.

KNB Associates

The mountain-top home is also San Diego County’s first residence to use rainwater for 100 percent of indoor potable water use and to receive a permit for on-site wastewater treatment, using greywater, blackwater, and storm water for outdoor irrigation. A solar thermal system provides space heating, as well as heating for domestic hot water and the pool and spa.

While Casa Aguila shows what a sustainable house can be with few space or budget constraints, the basic idea of a home that can sustain itself apart from the grid is one that you can expect to see more of.

KNB Associates

Extreme weather events, like recent hurricanes Harvey and Maria, put millions of households at risk of losing power for days, if not weeks or months, at which point a seasonal inconvenience can become a full-fledged humanitarian crisis.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which knocked out power for almost all of Puerto Rico, solar energy companies like Tesla and Sonnen began sending home batteries to the storm-battered island to bolster existing and new solar energy systems. These are all glimpses of the energy-independent home of the future.