The Idealist

How To Build The Ultimate Eco-Friendly House

Eco-friendly houses are no longer characteristic only of people with a bit extreme lifestyle who want to live in the most ecological way possible. They often choose to live in a forest or other secluded areas that provide them with everything they need, as long as their habitat and life habits are purely natural.

However, today it isn’t so uncommon to live in an eco-friendly house that doesn’t stand out from the others. In other words, it’s possible to live in a seemingly similar house as the ones in the neighborhood, which is at the same time different from them in many ways, being environmentally friendly.

So, how to build a house that is eco-friendly in any possible way? They may be looking like any other house, but there are features in it you will definitely have to plan carefully and significant changes you’ll have to bring.

Start from Scratch

Building an eco-friendly house means making a carefully thought plan, so you don’t have to do adjustments after most of the work has been done. You should opt for an airtight or “passive home“. This type of home is incredibly energy efficient, which is an aspect of an eco-friendly home. They are built in the way that they don’t leak any air or heat, which happens with regular houses that have gaps or poor insulation. Passive homes keep the heat inside, which allows you to save a lot of energy and money for keeping your home warm. There is no wasting of the slightest amount of heat. This type of home is 3-8% more expensive at the initial building but in the long run, they cost far less as they significantly reduce the amount of wasted heat. And let’s not forget the other important thing – they help in reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Acquire Alternative Building Materials

The first material that comes to mind is – wood. If you worry about deforestation and ethical issues, you shouldn’t – as long as you know the right way to source this material, you will still be taking care of the environment. And how’s that? Well, when it comes to retaining heat, wood is 40% better than regular materials such as bricks or building blocks. So, you’ll still be able to give your contribution to reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Another thing that’s simply fantastic is the growing popularity of wooden prefabricated buildings in South Africa – they can easily be erected and move to another place in just a couple of weeks.

If you’re looking for more alternative materials, try old newspapers, recycled denim, straw or wool – they can all be used for the insulation of your future home. Of course, testing for air tightness is still a must, as there could be some leaks.

Use Renewable Energy Sources

Our Earth’s supply of fossil fuels isn’t infinite. And the media are constantly warning us of that. It’s not just about the environment anymore – it has also become an economic issue. Energy prices are rising, so a lot of people are starting to use renewable energy sources and trying to be self-sufficient. Solar panels are an obvious choice here, as they can be used to power both the light and electrical appliances in your home. Another type of solar panels is the one that stores the heat and then provides it when needed.

Wind and hydropower depend on the area you’ve chosen to live in. If your home is going to be built on a higher windy ground, having a windmill is a perfect choice for you. The similar thing is with using hydropower – it’s best used if there’s a strong stream in the vicinity of your house or the climate brings frequent and heavy rains throughout the year.

Renovate your Home and Replace old Appliances

When you’re building an eco-friendly home, it’s important to have high-quality materials, as well as all the things in your home, including appliances. Make your environmentally friendly house also a comfortable place to live – open-space rooms, wide windows with plantation shutters to get as much light as you can and new electrical appliances. There’s no need to try to save some money on old stuff – it will cost more to replace them later. The thing with old electrical appliances is that they spend more electricity than you would pay for new ones.

Be Economical about your Water Usage

If you’re living in a rainy region, you could install a rainwater harvester and reduce the water consumption for your home and garden, and also by using premium hose reels in different lengths to minimize the water expenditure. If a composting toilet is too much of a trouble for you, then consider purchasing eco-friendly toilets that still help reduce the unnecessary water consumption, although not that much. Small tricks on saving water, such as taking a shower instead of a bath and closing the tap while brushing your teeth, are for you to study them once your home is built.

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  • Joan is an interior design project planner and freelance writer from Boston Massachusetts who lives with her husband and two bulldog terriers outside Wellfleet on Cape Cod.

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