Palo Alto Net Zero Energy House Shows You Can Have It All

Palo Alto Net Zero Energy House Shows You Can Have It All

Building a Beacon

Stuart is a man on a mission and his home is just one testament to his drive.

I have always enjoyed nature and spending time outdoors (hiking, mountain biking, trail running, rock climbing, mountaineering). When I started reading about climate change about 15 years ago, I knew we had to act. The first step was changing my job to focus exclusively on sustainability. Once I became aware of the various technologies that could help make buildings safer and healthier not only for the environment, but also the inhabitants of the buildings, the construction workers, and the manufacturers of building products, I decided to build a net zero home to demonstrate that creating an aesthetically pleasing building was achievable – with little to no cost premium. We wanted to be a beacon for others, not only in single family homes but multi-family, commercial, and industrial buildings as well.

The mission while building the Palo Alto Net Zero Energy House was to create an extremely energy efficient and healthy house that was cost-comparable to similar homes in the area – with no aesthetic, size, or comfort compromises. The house demonstrates that sustainable building does not need to come at a cost premium and can actually be built faster than a comparable custom house.

In the case of Stuart, his home is not only Passive House-certified (a home standard that results in low-energy buildings that require little to heat and cool), but it is also LEED Platinum (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified), and Net Zero (meaning it produces as much energy as it consumes). He built his home in Palo Alto starting in October 2012, and it was finished 10 months later in August 2013. Since then, the home has become net positive, meaning it produces more energy than it consumes, while also charging an electric vehicle.

Learn all about the incredible Palo Alto Net Zero Energy Home in the photos, articles, and video below. You’ll find plenty of inspiration, innovations, and insightful eco-tips to make your next home project a dreamier shade of green.

Stuart’s project is a good example of sustainable houses not needing to exist as an exception outside the mainstream of design. Sustainable and passive strategies can be integrated into any design. Meaning they don’t have to be an end in themselves and can support a homeowner’s vision of their life without compromising beauty or cost.

Daniel Garber

Partner, Fergus Garber Young Architects

Photo Gallery

Project Name

Palo Alto Net-Zero Energy House


Less than 50% of a comparable home in the area

Year of Completion



Palo Alto, CA


10 Months (not including planning)


5,340 sq/ft

More about the Palo Alto Net Zero Energy House

8 Eco-Amazing Ideas

8 Eco-Amazing Ideas

In every green build or remodel, people come up with interesting ways to up the eco-ante. Here are 8 innovations and ideas from the Lowell House. Try them with your next project!

Palo Alto Net Zero Energy Home Certifications

Palo Alto Net Zero Energy Home Certifications

While Stuart and Marcella set out to get Passive House certification, they achieved LEED Platinum in the end, as well. Click through to learn about these certifications and resources to earn them yourself.

The Team

The Team

Between design and construction, the Lowell House had many hands on deck – and all of them were required to learn passive design requirements and technologies. Here are the experts that built this dream, green home.

Final Observations

Final Observations

As with any project, lessons are learned along the way. Here, homeowners Stuart and Marcella Bernstein describe the unexpected obstacles they faced and some of the things they wish they would have done differently.

Q&A with the Homeowner

Q&A with the Homeowner

What did they wish they knew before they started? What’s the best piece of advice they have for others? Learn the answers to these questions and many more in our interview with the homeowners.

Mission Statement

Mission Statement

Stuart had the foresight to create a mission statement to guide the project and says whenever they veered from it, they regretted it. Read his and create your own.

Watch the Palo Alto Net Zero Energy Home Go From Dream to Reality

Green Guidance

Don’t let anyone tell you that “it can’t be done” or “it isn’t done that way” or “it will cost more.” Virtually everything that makes sense conceptually can be done and generally costs no more than doing it the conventional way. In fact, the first costs are no higher and the ongoing operating and maintenance costs are a fraction of conventional homes.



The Whole Story

You’d never guess it by looking at it, but this home cost 60% less than comparable homes in the area! Click through to get the details about the systems and products used for the Palo Alto Net Zero Energy House. Learn from their experience to make your dream a reality, too!

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