House to declare independence — from high energy bills

UVU professor Richard Hartley and students have created a model of their zero carbon footprint house. Photographed at the school in Orem on Monday, June 3, 2013. Hartley hopes to begin construction on the Lehi home next spring. JAMES ROH/Daily Herald

LEHI -- A UVU professor has chosen the city of Lehi for his experimental project -- a zero carbon footprint home called Independence House.

"It was just a perfect place to put it together," Richard Hartley said. "We don't know the exact location yet."

Hartley is not working alone and said he hopes to incorporate the project into the UVU curriculum for his students.

"When it comes time to build the home, I want the them be able to use some of their skills sets -- not only tech management but some hands on experience," he said.

The unique house has a tight envelope over it so heat does not leave or enter easily.

"This is a very unique house. This is the march of the future," Hartley said.

His associate, Organic Autos CEO Donald Moriarty, agreed.

"If completed with vision and thoughtfulness, the Independence House could be a compelling source of state, national and even international interest. Sometimes in order to catch the vision, it's helpful to see it and touch it," Moriarty said.

They want to use the thermodynamics of the area's underground heat in Lehi, 20 feet down, to maintain a minimum constant temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit inside the building. Other energy sources will bring the temperature in the home to a more comfortable 72 degrees.

A 3,500-square-foot three-level structure, the completion of the initial model home is phase I with a visitor's center as phase II. Phase III will be a 10-home community using the principles used and refined in phase I.

"It's to demonstrate that we are moving in the right direction," Hartley said of the Independence House project.

Thanksgiving Point has expressed a general interest in the project, he said, and UVU and MATC also have property near that area. Hartley said they hope to see construction begin next year in the late spring or early summer.

"We are looking at the possibilities and also which one it would be best to partner with. All through that region there are thermodynamics that are important to our project," he said.

The concept is on its way to the city's development review committee.

"We don't have all the architectural drawings yet. This is purely concept, but they have been very, very helpful so far," he said of Lehi city.

The professors and students will be using everything from solar, wind, water and hydrogen technologies to negate the Independence House's carbon footprint.

A carbon footprint is a measure of all greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that is produced by a subject or entity. You can calculate your home's carbon footprint at Carbon Offsets to Alleviate Poverty at by going to the carbon footprint calculator.

This is not the first time Hartley has created a house powered by alternative energy. In 1976, he designed a home for the Billings Energy Corporation.

"This is kind of a deja vu for me, not just for the technology we had then, but for the technology we have now is much more feasible," Hartley said.

The Billings house was not totally run by alternative energy and the solar panels that were available at the time period were very primitive, according to Hartley.

"Whereas Richard's interest originates from his participation in the Billings Hydrogen House in the late '70s, my roots are linked to Walt Disney's original vision for EPCOT, the Experimental City of Tomorrow, around 1968," Moriarty said.

The initial plans for EPCOT were to create a futuristic city that would showcase cutting-edge U.S. technology. It would have utilized communities connected by electric vehicles, massive green belts around low-density housing and underground transportation corridors.

"Disney's dream may have jump-started our shift to a more innovative, environmental world," Moriarty said. "Sadly, when Disney died, the accountants morphed the visionary's noble dream into a mind-numbing, international cultural center."

Funded through private grants and possibly public grants, the approximate cost of the home is $750,000 to $1.25 million.

"The primary funding I really want are the foundation grants and private donors. Federal funds come with strings attached," he said.

No one will live in the home. Research will be done there.

"Although Independence House will cost more than a conventional house to construct, which is only logical because of unique combinations of new technology, the final argument will be lower operational costs. Further, it will demonstrate that it is feasible to not only live in net zero structures, but we can also have home heating and electrical generation that emit zero emissions," Moriarty said.

At a large desk-sized mock-up of the home at UVU campus, an information technology student stopped to ask Hartley questions. The reaction of the sophomore from Ghana was immediate.

"This is really cool. This will knock six people out of business," Albert Menuh said. "I would love a house like that because paying for utilities all the time pretty much sucks up all your income."

In Ghana, energy is rationed. Once you use your energy limit for the month, your power is shut off. Having affordable alternatives for consumers in his country would solve many energy problems.

Solar panels cover the roof of the small model and a south facing deck. Shrubs inside the house create oxygen, cleaning the air. One side of the home shows a wall of windows.

"With the efficiency of the windows, losing heat will not be a problem," Hartley said.

Water will be recycled, cars will be electric and recharge in the garage, residential wind turbines will create more power.

"This totally makes sense," Menuh said. SClBSClBSClB

-- Cathy Allred covers 11 cities and towns in north Utah County and is responsible for Our Towns announcements. Send your school, civic, city and business news to for Daily Herald publication. You can follow her blog at
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