Architect Designs House that Makes Its Own Weather

Architect Designs House that Makes Its Own Weather

Homes in North Carolina have to cope with America's most violent weather -- hurricanes, tornadoes, and ice storms that knock out power for days and weeks. All that natural energy gave Wake Forest builder Michael Sykes an idea -- a house that makes its own weather.

Since the late 1980’s his company Enertia Building Systems, Inc. has been building homes that heat and cool themselves with the same forces that generate earth’s climate. A simple change in the way we build our houses could alleviate a growing national problem with energy shortages, energy costs, housing cost, and damage from natural disasters.

The earth stays warm in the minus 459 degree cold of space by its atmosphere and the thermal inertia of its huge mass. So every Enertia house has a miniature atmosphere surrounding a massive structure that can store energy. Each house is designed not just for today, but for a hundred-years-out when energy will be costly or unavailable, and each house can adapt if and when the climate changes. The rooftop can produce all the power the home needs, and the greenhouse-atrium can produce enough food, year-round, for a family of four. Enertia has built many homes that are self-sufficient, not even connected to the electric system. The technology is fully explained at

Not only is the energy needed to run a conventional house expensive, but so is the equipment. Heat pumps and furnaces cost money and have to be replaced every 10-15 years. So replacing equipment with good design saves initial cost, as well as running costs. But the big saver is the pre-cut numbered kit construction -- labor costs go way down. "One of our Enertia clients in southern California built his house for a quarter of the local going rate," says Sykes, inventor and President of the company. “While building green to reduce pollution is a noble cause, the real kicker that will save the planet is saving money. It’s expensive to foul the earth”

Once it was thought the home of the future would be plastic, but that thinking has changed with the shortage of petroleum. The current trend is to natural bio-based materials. Modern structures, like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, are carbon fiber, so the skin of modern Enertia homes are nature’s carbon fiber- wood in engineered glued layers for maximum strength. In the current trend for “Green” materials the Enertia home is at the top- the kit materials are 100% renewable.

This huge carbon content is what really makes the Enertia home stand out. “Do you know your carbon footprint?” says the BP television ad. By not needing fuel the home is close to a zero carbon footprint, but since the structure sequesters tons of carbon it makes the home better than 'carbon neutral’- building one actually helps clean the planet. Sykes calculates “building and living in an Enertia house is like taking 50 cars off the road.”

The glue laminated fiber wall is five times stronger than conventional 2x4 wood construction which is many products nailed to a frame- many products to be loosened and fly off in a storm. It can also survive complete submersion for several days, unlike a framed wall. Since the home still functions after a storm related loss-of-power it will be of interest to emergency agencies. The pre-cut numbered construction means permanent storm-resistant replacement homes could go up quickly.

Enertia Building Systems has thirty pre-designed models in its catalog and also does custom designs. They range from 800 square feet up to 6000 square feet. Interestingly, since the energy is stored in the structure, instead of the volume of the structure, the larger homes are the most energy-efficient.