Demand for eco housing is on the rise, this is no surprise as the general public wrestles daily with rapidly escalating utility bills in a dwindling economy, amid news of the growing hole in the ozone and the omnipresent talk of global warming. But locating available, energy-efficient, ecologically sensitive homes within your budget can be next to impossible. It is often easier to build your dream eco home from the ground up. This way you can be certain it meets your personal standards for location, size and overall costs.
Begin your design with eco or green construction methods and materials in mind so that they can be easily incorporated as you move from planning to building. Choose materials that are recycled or come from renewable resources, such as reclaimed brick, recycled tires, rammed earth or straw bales.
Incorporate additional insulation throughout the house design, unless you've chosen straw bale building or sheltered earth, in which case super-insulation is integrated into the design by means of the building material. Insulation should allow ventilation while internal support structures should aim to avoid the creation of thermal bridges, which allow heat to leak out.
Design your home to be run by solar or wind energy or a combination of both. Use wood-burning stoves or other renewable resources for heat. Incorporate passive solar heating into your design by making sure the longest part of the house is facing south and has plenty of double-glazed windows. The heat from the windows can then be absorbed by the strategic placement of adobe, heavy tile or brick flooring, thermal mass materials that work well to retain warmth. In some regions of the United States it may even be possible to heat and cool your home with a geothermal heat pump system. Omit having a natural-gas furnace by having in-floor heating installed.
Minimize your use of water by choosing low-pressure shower heads and composting toilets. Install a rainwater catchments system and store collected water in a cistern for use watering gardens and plants, flushing toilets or for washing dishes, clothing and cars.
Choose household appliances that use a minimum of electricity or, where possible, eliminate them entirely. For example, replace the gas or electric clothes dryer with a clothes line or wooden drying rack and use a tankless water heater.