The movement to curb climate change and use better environmental practices has been in existence for decades; perhaps we are just seeing younger leaders now, which could be the successful turning point the world has needed.
There are many steps we can take to protect our precious resources and keep our planet safe and beautiful for generations to come. Sustainable home design ideas are one example. We can use them in new construction or in existing structures to help build a better tomorrow.
Consider this: the average square footage of a traditional home in the United States is 2,600 square feet. A tiny home usually runs between 200-500 square feet. That’s approximately 2,000 fewer feet to maintain, heat, and cool, not to mention the environmental costs of material production, transportation, and construction.
Downsizing can be a good thing when it comes to sustainable home design ideas, and tiny homes capture this concept in creative and efficient ways.
The four structural walls of a cob house are made from a mixture of clay, sand, and straw. These walls are set on a stone foundation to reduce the effect of water runoff, and a protective roof minimizes the effect of wind and rain.
While you may be thinking “the smart little piggy did not build his house of straw,” cob construction is actually an extremely durable method of producing materials for a home, while also being renewable. The oldest cob house is 10,000 years old!
Sustainable Home Ideas Using Non-Toxic Materials
Green construction can be illustrated through design and building practices, as well as by the materials used. Despite rules and guidelines, home building products may contain:
- Chromated copper arsenic (CCA)
- Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)
- Short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs)
As mentioned, cob houses are excellent examples of durable homes made with non-toxic materials. When designing your new home or renovation project, create and build with non-toxic materials in mind, such as:
- Natural lumber
- Straw bales
- Extreme GreenBoard
- Reclaimed non-toxic metals
At first thought, creating homes from reclaimed cargo containers may seem boxy and, well, downright ugly, but take a look at Cargotecture’s gallery to see how attractive these homes can be. From small summer cabins to large retail spaces, the reuse of cargo containers is creating living and working space that goes from ship to sofa.
Container housing is becoming so efficient that it is believed possible to reclaim, reuse, and recycle as much as 98% of a shipping container.
An Overt Underground Movement
Wisconsin did not become the Badger state because of a bounty of fierce little creatures with cute black and white faces. During the mining boom of the 1920s, families would dig holes into the mine sites or area hills, thus living underground like their namesake mammals. These men became known as “badger boys” or “badgers.”
Earth-sheltered homes are another option in sustainable home ideas. The idea is that you use the earth and landscaping for as much of the structure as possible. Some different ideas are:
- In-hill (build into existing hillside)
- Earth berming (create a soil structure to use as part of the home)
Earth-sheltered homes are typically less expensive to heat and cool, with comparable square footage. They are usually structurally more durable and are particularly advantageous if you live in areas that get hit by tornadoes or hurricanes.
Walls and roofs of green plants are not only aesthetically pleasing, but they can also help to keep a clean and healthy environment. Adequately placed green living walls can:
- Filter toxins
- Humidify during dry months
- Increase air quality
- Have a calming effect
Green roofs can have so much versatility. Go straight greens and grasses for cooling and cleaning the air. Add flowers for splashes of color and pleasant aromas. Or you can go with a roof garden, and feed the atmosphere while you feed others.
Efficiency Design in Sustainable Homes
Make your home as renewable and sustainable as possible, by always asking, “Is there a better way to do this?” Perhaps solar panels will work well for whole-house energy, heating a pool, or just heating your water.
Water reclamation systems can take greywater from washing your clothes and dishes and from your bathtub, shower, and sink and rather than just flushing it away, it can get piped to outdoor watering for landscaping. Depending on where you live there may be regulations or prohibitions on the use of greywater.
Tankless Water Heaters
One of the greatest consumers of energy in your home is your water heater. It is working all the time to keep that water hot, even when you aren’t using it. You can save some energy by turning the temperature down.
Tankless water heaters can work well and are about 24-34% more efficient than traditional water heaters in a home that uses less than about 40 gallons of water per day.
Other Options in Sustainable Home Design
There are other ideas to consider to make your home more sustainable in general. If installing new flooring, consider a renewable grass like bamboo, or if putting in carpet, choose a natural fiber.
Whenever possible use Energy Star rated appliances and windows. Always use CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs) or LEDs. Install low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators to reduce water usage. Pull the drapes or blinds in the summer when it is hot, and leave them open in other seasons, using the warmth of the sun, instead of your furnace, to stay toasty and warm.
A Sustainable Energy Future
By working together, we can continue to improve sustainable home design, thereby increasing efficiency and decreasing waste. You can help create a sustainable future by contacting Kiwi Energy today.