Law Professor’s Ultra-Efficient Home has $6 Monthly Electric Bill
K.K. DuVivier’s residence is among the most sustainable and greenest homes in the country
Of all the things K.K. DuVivier could hang on her refrigerator, that little piece of paper from Xcel Energy may tell her story best. It’s the energy bill that the Sturm College of Law professor and her husband, Lance Wright, are so proud of.
For a mere $5.91 a month, the couple powers their 2,200-square-foot home on South Gilpin Street. (The average electric bill in Denver is $78.01 a month, according to the non-profit Energy Resource Center.)
“We call ourselves the ‘Power Couple,’” DuVivier says with a laugh while setting out compostable plates and bowls. She is hosting a farewell for the house she designed and built 10 years ago — a labor of love she is leaving to be closer to her grandkids.
“I guess it’s good because I can pass this one on and move on to another house,” she says. “We very strongly wanted to get the word out and use this house as sort of a showcase to let people know [they can build a sustainable home too].”
Calling the three-bedroom, three-bathroom house sustainable would be selling it short. Modeled after an über-efficient German concept known as the passive house, DuVivier designed one of the country’s most efficient homes — a structure that actually generates more energy than it consumes. A well-insulated and well-sealed building means there is no need for gas or air conditioning.
A lot of people feel like you can't build a house this sustainable. What we tried to do is build it to prove it can be done.K.K. DuVivier, Sturm College of Law professor
“It’s like living in an igloo cooler,” DuVivier says. “The temperature just doesn’t vary that much. It’s just an incredibly efficient standard.” She estimates the home operates 90 percent more efficiently than its counterparts.
Green energy has always powered DuVivier, who began her career as a geologist. A law degree from the University of Denver, however, pointed her toward a specialty in energy law, a subject on which she authored two books.
Since then, her house, just two blocks from campus, has become a textbook of its own. Hundreds, if not thousands of students and community members have walked over the carpet made from recycled soda bottles and looked through the triple- and quadruple-paned windows to see the solar panels on the garage out back. They can see in practice what the professor preaches.
“You want to walk the walk not just talk the talk,” DuVivier says. “A lot of people feel like you can’t build a house this sustainable. We tried to prove it can be done.”
Every inch of the house has been optimized for energy efficiency, from the south-facing, sun-seeking windows to the accordion blinds that hold heat in.
The kitchen countertops are made from sunflower seeds, while the floorboards, bricks and concrete stepping stones are all recycled.
DuVivier hopes she can energize a new generation of sustainable homeowners. “People don’t yet understand how cool this is,” she says. “We really have to work on people becoming more aware of what can be done, what the real impact is and not just have them do business as usual, [because that] perpetuates the use of fossil fuels.”
“If [this house] exists, it can be done.”
Sturm College of Law Professor K.K. DuVivier shows off the condensing dryer inside her home. The dryer vents into the home, rather than outside, which can help heat the house and increase energy efficiency.