Tips for building green homes

Construction of ecological houses

One of the definitions used to define eco-construction is that it is one that not only minimizes the use of resources both during construction and throughout its life cycle, but also provides a comfortable environment in which to live. In other words, a good ecological construction balances our need for comfort with the ecological impact it produces. A very ecological house that does not provide any comfort, does not satisfy our human need for a house.

This can be achieved in many ways, and there are a range of approaches ranging from buildings that use technology to reduce their environmental impact and those that are based on natural materials and a low impact lifestyle. More natural buildings can often have a negative carbon footprint, because materials such as straw actually store CO2. The ecological construction, therefore, requires careful consideration of location, materials, resource use, toxicity, durability, regeneration potential, biodiversity, aesthetics, community relations and dynamic relationship between people and their homes.

Making a home affordable is largely dependent on average income and what people expect to have to spend on a home. According to government criteria, affordable housing is defined through a formula of local income levels and local house prices. Its basic premise is that it must be low enough that a lower income family can afford it. Determining what is really affordable, however, is very difficult. At present many people are not able to afford to buy a house, and others will secure several decades of debt to buy one.

That a house is “cheap” should not mean that it is of low quality. However, people might be willing to pay a little more for a house that costs less during its operation and is of good quality, increasing the purchase price to save during its life cycle. As such we need to critically question what “really affordable” really means and look at how to create better low-cost housing.

Some tips for building green homes are:

  • Reduce size; smaller houses are cheaper to build, cheaper to operate and can sometimes avoid planning and construction regulations.
  • Simple design that is easy to maintain. Avoid using unneeded technology that is expensive to both buy and maintain and repair, and instead make use of simple design features such as passive solar energy. This reduces the life cycle costs of a building.
  • Use accessible construction methods that do not require specialized knowledge. Even in some cases you can use the work of volunteers.
  • Design in modular units so that the house can be expanded at a later stage.
  • Greater use of space between buildings, in some cases is outdoor space and in others forms part of a communal space. Often this involves reclaiming “public” spaces as pavements for areas of common use such as growing vegetables.
  • Collective construction and with this reduces labor costs and time. This also allows the exchange of skills. Many low-cost eco-homes were built with voluntary labor, although this can be difficult to climb. Collective construction also has other social benefits.
  • This collective approach is most often used to encourage people to organize, participate, and decide what they want their home to be.
  • To share infrastructures and common facilities among neighbors. Exemplified by the model of co-housing where residents retain individual privacy of space but share the laundry, gardens, guest rooms and storage and storage spaces and social spaces.
  • Share the cost of land and build in places where land is cheaper and less desirable.
  • Avoid using experts when possible. Whenever professional services were employed, costs increased significantly.
  • Ensure that residents know how to live efficiently within the eco-house to minimize energy wastage and understanding of manual operation requirements.
  • Careful choice of materials – balance the need to reduce the ecological impact with the performance requirements of the same.
  • Less durable houses are cheaper to build and may be appropriate in some cases, but for many, longevity and stamina are important in the design of the house.
  • Use of prefabricated elements or existing structures as the basic structure and then add additional natural materials to improve insulation and adjust the aesthetics.
  • Hybrid building approaches offer the flexibility to easily adapt a home to the climate without having to commit to building a single method. This allows a better effect when using the best look of different materials.
  • Avoid a purist approach to green building, you can use a hybrid fusion of influences, not all aspects should be ecological and do not need to be perfect to work.
  • Ensuring an aesthetically pleasing design, just because it is inexpensive does not mean it should be ugly or unpleasant.