• Angie Lane

The Future Of Home Sustainability: Waste-To-Energy Furnace

Copenhagen has built the cleanest, most efficient waste to energy plant in the world. (CopenHill, also known as Amager Bakke) It's 107% efficient, which means more energy comes out that goes into the process. This virtually eliminates landfill garbage. This is a big deal. Depending on the process, waste to energy is typically around 85% efficient. Besides the efficiency of CopenHill, it's provides community uses: a roof top ski hill, park, rock climbing wall, restaurants. It integrates community usage with energy production- 2 urban functions that are typically isolated from each other.

sustainable home design waste to energy

I have long been complaining that the U.S. is so far behind on any and all green technology. Unfortunately, humans do not respond to environmental crisis without legislation. All of these advances in green technology are because the countries have passed legislation setting minimum energy goals. Maybe the U.S. will get on board at a national level, maybe not. If I just use the general information available on CopenHill: 440,000 tons of waste yearly, heat & electricity for 150,000 homes, cost of $670M to build. The U.S. would need about 2,188 of this size power plant at a cost of $1.4 trillion. The current U.S. Department of Energy budget is $35.4 billion. So that would be the entire budget over the next 40 years to fulfill this. Not impossible, especially if we allocate some of our astronomical military budget to energy, but, at this moment, that seems unlikely.

sustainable home design waste to energy

However, if I take those same basic statistics and break them down to the household level, it's 100% achievable and 100% economical for homeowners. My concept is to shrink the technology of CopenHill to be accessible to homeowners.

sustainable home design waste to energy

Ok- so here's the "math" breakdown: (remember: basic stats with assumptions that technology can do this). My figures are based on a family of 4. I won't bore you with my amazing equations but here's the outcome:

---To provide heat and power for 1 year, a family of four with an average size house (2500sf) would need to produce 2.9 tons of waste per year. The average American family of 4 produces 3.5 tons of waste (so we're already giving energy back!)

---The cost of this Future Furnace is $4500 in the pure breakdown. Let's say it's actually $10,000. I'm using a monthly heat/electric bill of $500. With these figures, Future Furnace pays for itself in 20 months. The average furnace nowadays lasts for about 10 years. Assuming Future Furnace lasts at least that, this thing is an amazing investment. I also have not factored in that now you don't have a trash bill either :) And your heat/power bills are ZERO- $0.00!!

---The size of Future Furnace is 7.5'x7.5'x7.5'. Ok, so this sounds kind of huge. BUT...this is less than the size of a small bedroom, it's the corner of a basement.


If we remember the size that computers used to be, the size cameras used to be, and the size phones used to be- this is completely DOABLE.

sustainable home design waste to energy

The technology is here. The problem (waste, pollution) can be the solution (clean energy!). So now all I need is my Elon Musk/Shark Tank type people to bring this idea into reality. Easy :)

sustainable home design waste to energy

For more on CopenHill and other projects by BIG, check out the book FORMGIVING. BIG's commitment to projects that give back to the community is so impressive and innovative.

sustainable home design waste to energy


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