Everyone is looking to improve their home’s resource efficiency (or if they’re not, they should be), but with so many options for going green it can be hard to decide where to start. The world’s greenest homes don’t necessarily boast the most practical, or even the most likable features, but either way they provide some food for thought for those of us who just want to find some ways to upgrade our homes – or who want our next home to be incredibly efficient.
When you were watching or reading Lord of the Rings and came across the tiny, single-roomed homes of Hobbiton, did you ever think “Man, I want that…”?
Maybe this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s a lot of practical merit to the dome-shaped home.
Dome homes, if you’re not familiar, are known for the shape that gives them their obvious name. Because the exterior and roof are all rounded, it’s very difficult to efficiently structure interior walls, so these options aren’t for those who don’t appreciate the studio layout. Still, to create privacy, you could include drapes, vanity walls or curtains to make up for the lack of rooms.
The benefit of this shape from a green perspective is that it boasts the most favorable ratio of space to material that you can find, using up about 40% of the building materials required for traditional “box” homes.
The open arrangement and low ceiling also allows for unparalleled heating efficiency, as it promotes a natural, open flow of warm and cold air and allows a small amount of heat to permeate the entirety of the home.
From a practical standpoint, the great thing about these designs is that they’re extremely strong. This is because the sphere is a geometrically perfect shape for weight distribution, meaning every point of the home can withstand and distribute the same outside beating equally. This means that huge amounts of snow and rain will either fall right off or do virtually little to compromise the structure, and wind and earthquakes do practically nothing.
Australia’s First 8-Star Home
Located in Blackwood, the first 8-star home (a rating from 1 to 8 that measures the level of resource and environmental efficiency) in Australia does just about everything right that can be done.
The primary benefit to take away from this home that sets it apart, however, is its water efficiency. Using an innovative water treatment technology, the Blackwood home reclaims the household’s waste water aerobically, cleans it through integrated bio-filters and then recycles it for reuse in the home.
Lessons from a Desert Home
Over in the US, a Gardnerville, Nevada home uses its location to its advantage.
Located on a hill in the desert, this house is perfectly situated to utilize the sun’s power. Solar heating provides all the warmth the household needs during the chilly desert nights, and panels collect more than enough energy to power the home during the few cloudy days.
So what can you take away from this home?
Consider the potential of solar energy. Not only can the sun’s light warm a home (think about opening up your windows on cool days, or installing more windows to allow them to heat and light the interior), but it can provide huge power savings and usage reduction over time. This isn’t incredibly practical for most of us, but if your home is a long-term investment for you, really look into solar power.
Odds and Ends
There are tons of other options out there. The idea isn’t just to reduce energy/resource costs, but to decrease the impact we have on the environment. Non-volatile paints from organic materials are great alternatives, and collecting rainwater allows you to utilize nature as a home resource. Also think about installing a fireplace, or just using the one you have.
Any decision you make to do less damage to the world we live in and decrease the amount that you depend on manually harvested resources is a good one. Take a note from some of these practices and see what you can do.
Guest post contributed by Lauren Greenwood on behalf of Ri-Industries, South Australia’s leading manufacturer of waste water treatment tanks. Lauren is an Australia-based freelance writer who blogs about environmental awareness and green living practices.