What You Need to Know About Green Homes

What are green homes, exactly? What features do they possess, and what benefits do they provide?

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By Edward Campbell

green homes

The rising interest in environmentally sustainable homes or green homes is accompanied by an often inadequate supply of information on this subject. In this special issue, we aim to illuminate key aspects of this topic.

The construction sector bears a substantial environmental footprint, leading to an exploration of bioconstruction as a feasible alternative. Green homes, crafted from natural materials, demonstrate reduced environmental impact and minimal energy consumption by harnessing renewable energy. Before diving into the details, let’s first elucidate the concept.

Understanding Eco-Friendly Homes

Commonly referred to as ‘green homes,’ these structures are crafted from renewable materials, boasting reduced environmental impact and optimized energy efficiency.

In essence, they provide maximum living comfort with minimal environmental repercussions, offering both environmental and economic benefits. These residences fulfill their energy needs through the utilization of renewable energy sources.

Constructing Environmentally Sustainable Homes

Several factors contribute to the construction of such dwellings:

  • Natural Materials: The least expensive eco-homes are typically constructed from wood. Alternatively, they may feature cladding or finishing with environmentally friendly materials like cork, gypsum, rock wool, bamboo, or straw. These materials are often paired with natural origin paints.
  • Energy Efficiency and Reduced Consumption: Sustainable houses prioritize insulation to minimize heat loss, resulting in significantly reduced heating and cooling consumption. Estimates suggest these homes can achieve savings of around 80 to 90 percent on energy bills.
  • Intelligent Appliances: Home automation enhances system performance by intelligently coordinating functions, optimizing consumption for efficiency and savings. This guidance aids users in achieving practical consumption habits and in making your building more energy-savvy.
  • Renewable Energy: Eco-sustainable houses typically incorporate solar panels for energy production, striving for energy self-sufficiency. Additionally, systems utilizing solar energy to produce hot water for household needs are common. Energy storage solutions, like batteries, ensure energy is available when needed, even on cloudy days.
  • Location: An environmentally friendly location is crucial, promoting clean, breathable air. Ideally, these houses should be situated in green areas, away from industrial centers and bustling urban zones.

Prefabricated Eco-Sustainable Houses

Primarily constructed from wood, prefabricated houses embody the core principles of green homes and present a unique, innovative, and increasingly popular solution, often due to their cost-effectiveness.

green homes
Prefabricated wooden houses represent the solution that best embodies the concept of sustainability.

What are the benefits of environmentally sustainable houses?

These homes boast an exceptionally high level of energy efficiency, resulting in an average consumption reduction that translates to a substantial savings of around 80 or 90 percent on utility bills.

Typically constructed from wood, green houses exhibit remarkable durability against the passage of time and adverse weather conditions.

In general, wooden houses come at a lower cost compared to traditional brick and masonry structures. The foundations, supporting less weight, require less depth, leading to reduced construction time. Additionally, wooden structures offer seismic resistance.

Significantly, these structures represent a substantial advantage due to their minimal environmental impact.

green homes
Crucial also turns out to be the living context, that is, the location of the house

Some examples of green homes around the world

In recent years, eco-sustainable homes have emerged as the embodiment of a truly energy-efficient lifestyle. Architects and designers worldwide have demonstrated ingenuity in crafting imaginative and functional solutions, shaping the concept of the “ideal green home.” Here are some notable examples:

Let’s commence with a glance at some historical projects:

  • The Domespace: An innovative circular wooden house designed by Patrick Marsilli, who has built approximately 100 prototypes since 1989, primarily in France. Notably, this house can rotate up to 320° based on the sun’s position and utilizes passive solar energy during winter months.
  • Hudson Passive Project: Recognized as the first Passivhaus-certified house in New York state, constructed in 2010 by BarlisWedlick Architects LLC. This essential style building features walls clad in local stone, a sloping roof made of laminated wood, and a south-facing facade to harness solar radiation.
  • Home for Life (Denmark): An ecological house designed to maximize solar energy utilization.
  • Water Tower Home (England): Designed by Tom Dixon, who clad an old water tower on the outskirts of London with wood. The innovative use of water power through a system of pipes regulates the interior temperature.
  • Vogel House (Switzerland): Created by architects Diethelm&Spellman, this splendid two-story wooden house is clad in silver plaster and rough larch panels. It minimizes thermal excursion, featuring a pitched roof equipped with solar and photovoltaic panels.
  • Bamboo House (France): Located about 20 kilometers from Paris, this house, designed by Karawitz Architecture, draws inspiration from traditional two-story barns in the area. The wooden structure is covered with untreated bamboo canes, and the sloping roof incorporates solar thermal collectors to supply most of the house’s water needs.
  • Bosco Verticale (Milan): A renowned project by Boeri Studio in Italy, the Bosco Verticale represents a futuristic concept that received the Best of Green Design 2012 award. Thousands of trees grow on porcelain stoneware walls, creating a unique habitat for birds with integrated nests.
eco-sustainable houses
The Bosco Verticale in Milan.

This green curtain enveloping the buildings plays a role in controlling humidity, absorbing carbon dioxide and particulate matter, while simultaneously generating oxygen. The resulting indoor microclimate poses no adverse effects on the environment.

FOCUS: The Advantages of Vertical Gardens

In the realm of eco-conscious designer residences, Diogenes stands out as the most compact dwelling. Conceived by Renzo Piano, this diminutive abode spans a mere 6 square meters, featuring a kitchen, bedroom, and shower. Crafted entirely from wood, it incorporates a rainwater collection system and a solar panel. This environmentally conscious solution maintains a consistent temperature throughout both summer and winter, all at a cost below 20,000 dollars.

What are the costs of green homes?

Construction costs fluctuate based on the materials employed and the scope of the project. Here are approximate price ranges:

  • Advanced raw prefab house (building envelope closed, with finishes and plumbing to be completed): 800 – 1,100 dollars per square meter.
  • Prefabricated semi-finished: 1,000 – 1,300 dollars per sqm.
  • Prefabricated turnkey finished house (inclusive of interior finishing, electrical and plumbing, plumbing fixtures, boiler, flooring, and doors): 1,250 – 1,650 dollars per sqm.
green homes
Green homes are designed with a focus on minimizing their impact on the environment and promoting energy efficiency.

Certifications

Numerous certifications are available to designate a home as environmentally sustainable. An example is the U.S. Green Building Council, an organization that issues green home certifications. Their certification, titled Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), evaluates factors such as site location, energy and water usage, integration of healthier building materials, insulation choices, recycling practices, utilization of renewable energy, and the safeguarding of natural resources.

The U.S. National Association of Home Builders has independently established its Model Green Home Building Guidelines as a certification framework, complemented by utility-focused programs.

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