What is the most eco-friendly housing? The objective of an eco-home is to create as minimal production of carbon as possible. That includes sourcing materials, the build itself, and the way heat and electricity is generated. An eco-house might use locally sourced, sustainable timber for it’s framework and water saving appliances and systems designed to completely remove waste. There are several different eco-homes which all bring their own solutions and drawbacks. Earthships are homes which really take eco-friendly to sky heights with its totally self-sustaining systems and natural sources of energy. These homes are made completely from natural or recycled material and heat the home naturally. All energy needed by the home is created from sources such as wind (with small scale windmills) and solar power (using panels). All food is produced in or around the home and water is harvested and purified naturally from rain or nearby rivers and streams. While there are absolutely no bills, no emissions and no need to ever leave your Earthship. These designs can be very expensive to set up and require significant planning. Although some of the renewable “chores” can be automated, food, water and power can be weather dependent and therefore the user can encounter significant problems with their reliability, especially when no backup plan is in place. The walls of Rammed Earth homes are built entirely of tightly packed soil that creates a well-insulated, well protected and low-cost home. The fused soil gives a smooth rock design to the walls and allows for a modern eco-friendly feel. Rammed earth style homes are not only eco-friendly but can withstand the brutal weathering of nature. The walls are extremely thick between 19-24 inches which also acts to heavily reduce the sounds indoors, adding to the comfort and cozy feel of the house. However, these homes are expensive projects as they involve a lot of labor-intensive work. They also require very specific geographical locations for the project to work. Fortunately, there are plenty of cheaper ways to make a home energy efficient, quiet and warm through more traditional and standard forms of insulation. “Prefabricated” houses are built off-site and transported to the plot ready-made. The way in which they are remade ensures no waste is produced in the construction; there are no skips for on-site construction and all measurements are exact. Prefabricated homes are eco-friendly and feature advanced furniture and appliances inside. They come in a range of luxury designs with eco-friendly features such as solar panels and are far cheaper than any other houses on the market. Zero Carbon homes have absolutely no carbon emissions whatsoever. Equipped with the newest eco-friendly technology they generate all their energy and materials from sustainable sources. A surprising number of homes can actually be turned into zero carbon by investing in solar panels, insulation and a water pump, helping both the environment and your long term bank balance.
What are eco-friendly houses made of? Sustainable materials are a must in construction. One of the wider issues of energy efficiency is the embodied energy within construction materials (embodied energy is the energy expended in the production and transportation of the materials used for construction). The most sustainable materials which are used in construction are; recycled steel, responsibly sourced or reclaimed timber, bamboo (as it grows very quickly) and sheep’s wool (as it can be re-grown on a large scale with ease). Other sustainable materials which can be used include straw bales which can be harvested and re-planted easily with minimal environmental impact as well as concrete, another natural material which can be recycled. Concrete is also easily reinforced with other natural fibers and is perfect for the long-term efficiency of insulation. The avoidance of non-renewable materials in construction is key to achieving sustainable material architecture. When most of us think about non-renewable resources we immediately consider fossil fuels (natural gas, coal, crude oil and petroleum products) and though these energy sources are the most widely spoken about, there are a vast number of other resources which are also running out. For example, aluminum, copper, silver, gold and diamonds cannot be replenished at a high enough rate to counteract their usage. Wood is a primary building material for eco-housing. This is because trees grow using energy from the sun, do not pollute, produce oxygen, absorb CO2, provide a wildlife habitat, can be replanted, can be sourced locally and the timber can be put to some other use after a building is demolished. Cement is a very useful building material and there are places where we must be practical and use it. However, one alternative to cement is lime. Lime has been used as a building material for thousands of years and although energy and CO2 are used in its production it gently returns to limestone in time, taking in CO2 in the process. It isn’t just the type of material which is used, we must also consider how and where they are sourced from. Using reclaimed and recycled materials, rather than new materials, are also a great way of preserving natural resources; particularly bricks, slates and roof tiles, to make use of the embodied energy within these materials. This can also help new buildings to blend in with their surroundings. In this same token, creating less waste and generally using fewer materials by designing minimum weight structures and matching demand to supply are also fundamental to sustainability.
How can I make my house eco friendly? Buildings use up enormous amounts of energy which have significant contributions to greenhouse gasses. Managing and reducing energy loss is one of the best ways to ensure an eco-friendly house. Increasing the amount of thermal insulation is the main component of preventing energy loss. According to the EPA Office of Air and Radiation, indoor air is more polluted than outdoor air, and is in the top five human health risks. Such pollution could be caused by toxic chemicals and mold and could lead to asthma induced illnesses. Insulation in Eco-homes include draft exclusion, glazing, wall, roof insulation, and other nontoxic materials. By installing insulation not only are you paying less money for heating bills, but you are also reducing exposure to toxic materials such as the carcinogen formaldehyde found in manufactured wood. Often the starting point in a refurbishment or renovation project is to replace single-glazed windows with double glazed, and this will have a big impact. Secondary double glazing will cost much less and have almost the same impact on energy consumption. In partnership with this is often draft-proofing, or airtightness; for energy efficiency, it offers the best financial return on investment, and in older houses is likely to have the biggest impact on reducing energy consumption. An integral aspect to this is also bolstering insulation; thermal efficiency is a core element of any eco home and insulation is a key component of that. Focus on getting the insulation as consistent as possible on the whole envelope. In the right geographical area and climate depending, solar panels can be ideal to help generate energy; for many, an eco-house starts life facing the sun. Strategically planting trees and creating windbreaks on the north and east sides of the build can enhance the solar gain effect by protecting the house from the cold north easterly winds. If suitable, solar panels are relatively easy to install, tax subsidized and even potentially profitable. Green the plot: Where you can, get rid of hard surfaces such as tarmac, brick drives and concrete. Grass is of little interest to insects and adds nothing to the ecology. A mixed species grassed area (with plantain, daisy, chamomile, yellow rattle, maybe some wildflowers) is more interesting to look at and useful to the fauna in the area. Take this one step further and introduce living walls and green roofs; as well as looking good, planted roofs and walls have ecological benefits to offer a new home and a purist eco builder will attempt to replace the ecology that the house stands on. A green roof will usually not support the same plant and animal life that the ground did and will not usually be maintained in the same way that a garden is. It therefore needs specialist planting, which in turn is likely to attract different insects and other animal life.