Traditional home construction techniques have been around for decades. While effective, they aren’t the most eco friendly homes option for the discerning homebuyer. If you’re planning your next move or working toward purchasing your first or next home, here are 10 environmentally friendly houses to inspire you.
How much space do you need in your new home? If you’re willing to sacrifice space for mobility and sustainability, the EcoCapsule might be the perfect new home for you. It’ll fit one person — or two, if you’re cozy — uses solar and wind for power generation and collects rainwater. It’s the perfect mobile home that allows you to live anywhere without having to worry about connecting to the local grid for water or power. If the EcoCapsule is too small for your tastes, not to worry — there are plenty of other options, so read on!
You’re probably familiar with concrete and stone as building materials, but what about rammed earth? If you’ve ever looked at the Great Wall of China, you’ve already got a passing familiarity with rammed-earth construction. Workers mix gravel, clay, sand and cement, then compact everything in place to form thick, eco-friendly stone walls. The walls are usually around 12 inches thick, which provides fantastic sound and temperature insulation. It’s also cost-effective — between $250 and $300 per a vertical square meter of rammed-earth wall.
Shipping containers started to gain popularity as an alternative to overpriced real estate, but they’ve got another advantage — they’re also eco-friendly homes. Designers have created stylish and sustainable homes out of anywhere from one to 31 shipping containers without worrying about jumping through any of the normal hoops of building a home. Companies leave steel shipping containers abandoned to rust away every year. By repurposing these containers and turning them into a home, you’re recycling — and skipping materials like bricks or concrete that might not be recyclable.
Unless you’re installing solar panels, the roof of your house is just a lot of unused space. Instead of letting it sit there and soak up sunlight, why not turn it into something productive? The Sky Garden House in Singapore is the perfect proof of concept. Instead of asphalt shingles or clay tiles, soil and greenery cover the entire roof of this home, providing additional insulation, water drainage and improving local air quality. Having plants inside and out helps absorb toxins and clean the air you breathe — you can’t go wrong with that.
Prefab homes are like the Ikea furniture of homebuilding. Instead of building your entire home from scratch, the entire structure of these eco-friendly homes gets constructed off-site, brought to your new address and assembled like flatpack furniture. You can put prefab structures nearly anywhere, and some even come with a roof pre-planted with wildflower seeds instead of shingles! How cool is that?
Tiny houses, small mobile homes with less than 500 square feet of space, are becoming more popular as people strive to create a minimalist lifestyle and divorce themselves from the material. The nice thing about tiny homes is that you can drop them nearly anywhere, they are easy to power with renewable energy like solar or wind and they take much less energy to heat, cool, and light because of their tiny size.
If you’ve ever wanted a hobbit hole, you’re in luck. Earth-sheltered homes are about as close as you’ll get without traveling to Middle-Earth. These homes nestle into hillsides or exist completely underground, which serves to provide insulation and drainage. They’re also a lot easier to heat and cool because the surrounding earth maintains a steady temperature regardless of the time of year.
You don’t have to live near the Pacific Rim to take advantage of geothermal energy to heat, cool and power your home. These systems use the ambient ground temperature to generate heat and electricity. In most parts of the world, the ground temperature remains the same year ’round. It can be costly — between $20,000 and $25,000 to install — but federal incentives can help offset some of the costs, and most systems pay for themselves in between two and 10 years.
Installing solar panels or shingles is one of the more obvious ways to use sunlight, but it isn’t the only one. Design your home with plenty of windows, so you can use sunlight to both light and heat your home — even in the winter, sunlight generates heat that can help keep your utility costs down. In the summer, use curtains to minimize the indoor temperature, or even use smart solar blinds that follow the sun and generate electricity while keeping your home cooler.
Zero-carbon homes, or properties that provide more energy to the grid than they take, are becoming more popular as environmentally conscious homebuilders try to reduce their carbon footprint. Building new eco-friendly homes makes this a little easier, but you can take steps — like reducing energy consumption and installing renewable power sources — to make even existing homes zero-carbon.
After looking over these options, what are your plans for your next move? Are you planning to build a zero-carbon solar-powered home, or a hobbit hole, nestled into a hillside? The potential options are limitless. You just need a bit of planning, and the desire to add environmental activism to your achievable bucket list.