Architecture gets eco with these houses that can help fight climate change
By Diane Small
Here’s a shocking fact for you: private homes are estimated to be responsible for about one fifth to one fourth of global carbon dioxide emissions. For that reason, eco-friendly houses and green building methods are becoming more and more of a necessity.
Eco friendly architecture not only helps save the planet, but it also helps save on bills – generally, you’ll be saving on energy use, land and construction costs. There are increasingly diverse ways to build sustainable homes, and to demonstrate, we’ve found five kinds of houses that can help fight climate change no matter what your budget, ranging from Earthships to tiny homes.
Earthship designs are made completely from natural and upcycled materials. They’re built with the intention of being “Off-The-Grid Ready” – this means they require minimal reliance on public utilities and fossil fuels. They are also constructed to use available natural resources, particularly energy from the sun and rainwater. These houses can come in prefabricated construction packages, making it easier, more economical and more practical to construct.
- Constructed using natural and upcycled materials.
- Thermo-solar heating and cooling.
- Solar and wind electricity.
- Self-contained sewage treatment.
- Water harvesting and long-term storage.
- Grow food inside thanks to greenhouse interaction zones.
- Thermal mass keeps you cool in summer and warm in winter.
- Ease of construction.
- Can be constructed using materials that are free and would otherwise be landfill.
- Inexpensive. Models start at $20,000.
- Little to no utility bills.
- While materials are free, they take time to collect.
- Most Earthships are constructed with the aid of concrete, which contributes 10% of the world’s greenhouse gases.
- If not done by yourself, it can be costly to construct.
- Can take 2-3 years to find its median temperature.
Cost To Build: Around $10,000 for an average sized house.
2. Earth Sheltered Homes
Earth Sheltered Houses are typically built into the side or underneath the ground. This could be through ‘Earth Berming’ where earth is piled up against exterior walls and packed, sloping away from the house. Or, they could be classed as ‘in-Hill Construction’ where the home is set into a slope or hillside. There is usually only one wall visible, the rest are surrounded by earth. Some houses are completely underground, otherwise known as Fully Recessed Construction. This is where the ground is excavated, and the house is set in below grade.
The key eco factor here comes from thermal mass. It’s generated by the earth surrounding the building, and warms the house in winter and cools it in summer.
- Lower Bills: Energy usage from heating is minimal
- Storm Resistant: Thanks to being mostly underground, the impact on your home from high-winds will be minimal or non-existent.
- Thermal Mass: Energy use overall can be slashed by up to 50%-80%
If not properly designed, the following problems can pop up:
- Water Seepage
- Internal Condensation
- Bad Acoustics
- Poor Indoor Air Quality
Due to the threat of water seepage, non-biodegradable substances, like concrete and plastics, tend to be used, which isn’t eco-friendly
There’s often a lack of natural light.
Cost: $100-$120 per square foot.
Second image credit: underground-homes.com/images/earth-berm-house
3. Prefabricated Houses
Prefabricated house designs are constructed off-site. Once complete, they are shipped to your chosen location and even assembled for you.
- Prefabricated houses use less energy during construction.
- Typically built with environmentally friendly and recyclable materials like wood and steel.
- There’s less wastage during construction.
- Tight seams and state-of-the-art windows keep heat in and thus reduce energy bills. These houses also have a reputation for being able to withstand natural disasters.
- Thanks to being pre-made assembly is very quick, as walls and ceilings just need to be joined together.
- Cheaper than standard built homes
- Increased up-front costs due to pre-construction and assembly before you can move in.
- Hooking up utilities can be problematic.
- Transportation can be difficult, depending on where you want to live.
- Buying the land to put your home on can be very expensive
Cost: Can range from $50,000 – $500,000.
Image credit: idesignarch.com/wp-content/uploads/Attractive-Prefab-Home-Toby-Long
4. Shipping Container Houses
Homes made out of shipping containers have grown in popularity over the past several years due to their inherent strength, wide availability, and relatively low expense.
- For each recycled shipping container 7,000 pounds of steel become reused.
- Less concrete and cement use. In fact, the only concrete that you will need will be for the foundations.
- Containers are much cheaper than materials such as brick and steel.
- Due to the walls, floors and ceilings being already constructed, moving time is radically decreased.
- Containers are already made to resist extreme weather conditions.
- Containers can be converted off-site, so only assembly and interior design in needed on-site.
- Temperature control can be difficult due to the metal’s absorption quality.
- You are restricted to the length and width of the containers.
- You never know what the container was storing before you owned it.
- Solvents released from paint and sealants used in manufacture might be harmful.
Cost: $2,000 per container.
Image credit busyboo.com/wp-content/uploads/shipping-container-office-sh-1000×667.
5. Tiny Houses
Tiny houses have become so popular that they have their own ‘movement’. Generally, they are defined as dwellings under 500 square feet.
- Less building material required
- Easier to build with recycled, repurposed and salvaged materials
- Reduced life cycle cost of materials.
- Smaller space to heat.
- Can be mostly powered off solar and wind resources due to size
- Composting toilets
- Catch and filtration of rainwater
Many tiny houses can be built with wheels enabling them to be a mobile home. They’re also far more affordable than larger houses.
- Less living and storage space
- Limited entertaining space
- You’ll have to live a minimalist lifestyle (though this can be a good thing)
Cost: $19,000 – $50,000
Image credit: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a9ecf54e749404cc4444866/t/5b118a491ae6cf4596603d40/1527876203790/Sowelo+Tiny+House
Main image credit here https://cdn.redshift.autodesk.com/2016/07/ShippingContainer-Houses-Header. Thanks to www.roof-stores.co.uk for providing some of the information in this article