Breathtakingly beautiful sustainable homes

Have you ever imagined your dream home? Well, we have and it’s not only one of a kind! What we are sure of is that it will be sustainable and contrary to what you may think, there are many incredible options for eco-building as you will find out reading this article.

Sustainability can reside, amongst other, on how the house is built, which materials are used, renewables supply energy and reusable water installations.

Prior to sharing with you the beautiful eco home pictures, we invite you to read the following interesting data regarding carbon emissions and building construction:

“According to Architecture 2030, a nonprofit organization that is working to reduce carbon emissions, embodied carbon (which is the carbon footprint of a material) from the building industry accounts for 11 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Concrete, iron, and steel are carbon-intensive materials to produce. The production of cement—which goes into concrete—accounts for eight percent of global carbon emissions. Global steel production accounts for seven to nine percent of carbon emissions”, by Diana Budds for curbed.com.

 

Most eco houses share the same solar and wind power supply for all of their electricity needs, including hot water. In some cases, for example Passive Houses or Zero Carbon Houses, more energy is produced than it is consumed and therefore, more energy is sold.

Tiny homes

This sweet tiny home is Christina Salway’s tree house, founder of 11211 Design.

Tiny homes are considered to be sustainable because given that they are tiny, generally between 10 sqmt to 40 sqmt, they use less space, less materials and thus, minimize their energy consumption. It is in fact nothing new, as tiny homes have always existed (think of igloos).

You can gather eco points by using recycled and local materials to build your tiny home, like this cozy treehouse. “Christina describes the windows in this treehouse as a “patchwork quilt” of collected, gifted, and found pieces (…), and the result is just perfect to feel in connection with nature!”

Passivhaus

This beautiful round Passivhaus is located in Sweden (it was the first eco friendly building which sold as type house in Sweden) and has been designed by Kjellgren Kaminsky Architecture.


It looks very nice, but what exactly is a Passivhaus or Passive House?

As the name indicates, the goal of a passivhaus is to reduce the heating demand to a very low level, rather than relying on renewables. It means building a low-energy home. This is possible thanks to:

  1. Superinsulation: all opaque building components (things other than windows or doors) of the exterior envelope of the house must be very well insulated
  2. Extreme airtightness: all edges, corners, connections and penetrations must be planned and executed so that thermal bridges are avoided
  3. Energy recovery ventilation: generally, at least 75% of the heat from the exhaust air is transferred to the fresh air again by means of a heat exchanger
  4. High performance windows: triple-glazed windows

Source: Ecocor.us

The Passive House Institute asserts that “designing a passivhaus is your best bet for becoming Net Zero or Net Positive (meaning your home generates as much or more energy than it needs)”.

A bit of history: The “Passivhaus” standards were created and defined by German physicist, Dr. Wolfgang Feist and Swedish scientist, Dr. Bo Adamson in the 1980s, leading to the first official Passivhaus being built in Germany.

Prefabricated (“prefab”) homes

The photo is a prefab home on Block Island, (Rhode Island, US), circa 1967, from John G. Zimmerman (Getty Images).

Prefab homes are those that are built off-site and then transported to and assembled at its final destination. Each of the pieces that make up the house are efficiently made in a factory, consequently achieving waste reduction during construction. This type of constructions are nothing new either: there are records of the Romans using prefabricated components to quickly build forts in newly conquered lands!

There are three types of prefab homes:

Manufactured

This amazing manufactured prefab home is called The Breezehouse 2100, and it’s been designed in California by BluHomes.

Manufactured homes are fully constructed in a remote home-building facility on a steel frame and then transported to the final site where it is set on a permanent foundation.

This takes us to eco steel frames. Prefab eco steel is one of the most renewable resources on planet Earth, and all prefab steel is currently at least 75% recycled content. Eco Steel’s prefab construction process generally begins with 3D engineering.

This dream home, prefab and eco steel, is located in Bali and designed by Stilt Studios.

The idea is that the home can easily be taken apart and reassembled in a new location. Amongst other sustainable features are “large roof overhangs designed to minimise solar-heat gain, rainwater harvesting, cross ventilation and energy-generating solar panels. It is also envisaged that food could be grown underneath the buildings”. Definitely, the statement “less is more” applies to this incredible prefab home! Here are more photos for you to enjoy:

Modular

This modular home built on Sweden’s Musko Island took a mere six months to be completed – three in the factory and three on site! From Dwell Magazine.

Modular homes are structures made of multiple sections that are also constructed off-site, but the sections don’t come together until they’re at the final building site.

Mobile

These fairy tale, super cozy cabins are made by Jacob Witzling and Sara Underwood. The project is called Cabinland.

“Mobile homes are those that are truly mobile: They’re trailers on wheels that can be pulled by a vehicle. Most Tiny Houses fall under this category. Mobile homes are also fully constructed in a facility, and since they remain on wheels, don’t necessarily have a final destination”, by House Beautiful.

Words fail to describe how much we love this next remote cabin. Located in Norway and designed by Snohetta, the cabin has a beautiful story behind. This preciously natural tiny 35m2 cabin is a hybrid between a prefab manufactured and a modular home,  and can accommodate up to 21 people. It is definitely where I would escape to!

Bamboo house

This peaceful runway bamboo lodge is located in Bali and it is called the Hay House.

What makes Bamboo sustainable and a good alternative for building construction?

Because we move further, it’s important to note that there are roughly 1,500 known bamboo species on the planet and only a hand-full of them can be used for construction.

Hereafter are its benefits:

  1. Strength: Bamboo is as strong as mild steel with the compression strength of concrete. Amazingly, one inch (2.5 cm) of bamboo can hold up to 7.5 tons (6,800 kg) of weight!
  2. Rapid growth: Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing wild grasses on Earth. It reaches heights of full maturity in as little as 3 years and can be harvested 2-3 years later (while trees are typically harvested after 20-50 years or more).
  3. Carbon capture and storage system: They reduce pollution by producing oxygen, more than 35 percent than trees usually do. Bamboo also consumes high quantities of nitrogen, which helps reduce water pollution.
  4. Avoids soil erosion: Since bamboo isn’t clear-cut like trees, the soil is not exposed to the weather. Its rhizome mat continues to live after each harvest, protecting the ground from erosion.
  5. Recyclable:study by the National Association of Home Builders estimates that about 8,000 pounds (3,629 kg) of waste is created from the construction of a single 2,000 sqf  (186 sqm) home! The majority of the waste is wood, cardboard and drywall, and almost all of it ends up in landfills. In comparison, bamboo is completely recyclable.
  6. It’s earthquake and hurricane-resistant: so, in addition to saving lives, bamboo avoids waste construction and the use of more materials for building construction after a natural disaster occurs.

Sources: Bamboo Living, Green Home Guide and Guadua Bamboo

Another important thing to note is that bamboo contains high levels of starch (sugars) which attract insects, such as termites. For this reason, it is important that bamboo receives the proper treatment (i.e., leaching or chemical bamboo preservation) prior to construction, otherwise, bamboo has a natural durability of less than 2 years.

After all this useful information, please enjoy more photos of the Hay House and other bamboo constructions to keep you day-dreaming!

Zero-carbon homes

This zero-carbon 10-star home is located in Australia, and it’s been designed by The Sociable Weaver in collaboration with Clare Cousins Architects.

What exactly is a zero-carbon house? 

“A zero-carbon home is so energy efficient that its annual net carbon footprint is zero. These homes are still tied to the energy grid, but are so insulated, airtight, and low energy, that they’ve become carbon-free. These homes produce enough renewable energy that it may even produce more than they use, making it ‘net positive’”, by Elemental Green.

A statement released by the International Union of Architects (UIA) said: “urban areas are responsible for over 70% of global energy consumption and CO2 emissions, mostly from buildings. Over the next two decades, an area roughly equal to 60% of the total building stock of the world is projected to be built and rebuilt in urban areas worldwide. This provides an unprecedented opportunity to reduce fossil fuel CO2 emissions by setting the global building sector on a path to phase out CO2 emissions by 2050”.

You can check out the 12 must follow steps to achieve a zero home in the following video.

“Built with a zero waste philosophy, healthy and non-toxic, carbon positive (…) the home self-heats and cools (meaning zero utility bills), and produces more clean energy than it needs so you can offset your neighbour’s emissions”.

Interior photos from the Australian zero home:

Zero-homes look just like normal homes, only with no energy bills like this fantastic English countryside home:

Earthships

This has to be the sweetest Earthship on Earth! It’s located outside Skálholt, Iceland, photo by Wendy Rose Gould.

According to Proyectos de Arquitectura, “it’s estimated that since the 1970s, the demand for resources associated with today’s lifestyles have exceeded the Planet’s biological capacity to meet them. In other words, we are surpassing the Planet’s natural capacity to recover by over-exploiting and over-polluting it. According to the World Bank, if the world’s population reaches the alleged number of people by 2050 (9.6 billion), it will take almost three Planet Earths to reach the natural resources necessary to maintain humanity’s current lifestyle”.

Let us remind you that about 8,000 pounds (3,629 kg) of waste is created from the construction of a single 2,000 sqf  (186 sqm) home. So there’s definitely something we can do, and that’s Earthship buildings!

Earthships are a concept of living. Here’s why:

“They are constructed of both – generally, local – natural and recycled materials (old tires, glass bottles, cans, reclaimed wood and metal…). These homes are designed to heat and cool themselves naturally, i.e., to collect, store, reflect, and distribute solar and wind energy in the form of heat in the winter and reject solar heat in the summer, harvest water from rain and snow, contain/treat their own sewage, as well as produce food” (Elemental Green). This means these types of homes are, generally speaking, entirely self-sufficient.

How do they work?

In order to work autonomously, they need to handle the systems of water, electricity, climate and food production:

  1. Water: it is harvested from rain, snow and condensation. As water collects on the roof, it is then channeled into a cistern. The cisterns filters out bacteria and contaminants, and makes it suitable for drinking. The water used for flushing toilets is filtered with waste-water from sinks and showers and described as “greywater”.
  2. Electricity: The majority of electrical energy is harvested from the sun and wind. The Power Organizing Module (prefabricated system provided by Earthship Biotecture) is used to take stored energy from batteries and invert it for AC use. It is also used to run any household appliance. Earthships are, generally, off-the-grid homes.
  3. Climate: Earthships are often horseshoe-shaped equator-orientated and windows on sun-facing walls to maximize natural light and solar-gain during winter months. The thick, dense inner walls provide thermal mass that naturally regulates the interior temperature during both cold and hot outside temperatures.
  4. Natural ventilation: it’s a simple mechanism that consists of an underground pipe for cold air intake and a skylight box for air suction.
  5. In-home food production: thanks to the windows on sun-facing walls, that space of the house works as an indoor garden and it’s able to even grow banana trees in the desert! The plants are watered with the filtered “greywater”.

Source: Environment and Ecology

These homes really are what you would call ‘trashy’! And you may think that they are just for the super environmentalists, but a survey done to Earthship owners shows most of them wouldn’t even call themselves environmentalists.

The following video explains the mechanism of Earthships (here), and if you want to have a laugh, check out architect Dan Phillips (he’s known for building creative homes from trash) as he gives this great TED talk on our attitude towards housing and our way of living. 

A bit of history: Earthships were founded by architect Michael E. Reynolds, who began experimenting with the use of recyclables as building materials back in the 1970s. He eventually started calling his work “Earthship Biotecture”.

A typical Earthship Home, The Vallecitos, Tres Piedras, New Mexico:

Other photos of Earthship homes:

Indoor garden in an Earthship home:

Our personal favourites:

Designed by Vetsch Architektur:

Rammed Earth

This Rammed Earth stunning building is called Al Hamra: it’s an earth brick farmhouse located outside Dakar and designed by Atelier Koé.

What exactly are rammed earth homes made of?

“Traditional rammed earth is made of a mix of clay-rich soil, water and a natural stabiliser such as animal urine, animal blood, plant fibres or bitumen. It is then compacted inside temporary formworks that are removed after the mix has dried and hardened. The resulting structure can withstand compressive forces of up to 2.5 megapascals (around 10% of the average compressive strength of modern bricks)”, by The Conversation.

It’s been around for millennia: the Alhambra Palace in Granada (Spain) and the Great Wall of China are both made of Rammed Earth. It is not only sustainable and stunningly beautiful, but durable as well!

We couldn’t describe it better than the historian Dethier, author of the book The Art of Earth Architecture did: “the optimal new uses of raw earth as a construction material are now increasingly adopted all over the world for three main reasons: It does not need any industrialization process, does not consume fossil energy, and does not emit CO2. Housing and buildings appropriately designed to use the local resource of raw earth are providing high climatic comfort, as well as a very pleasant living experience…generating sobriety, economy, beauty, sensuality, harmony with nature and eco-responsibility”.

Designed by Luigi Rosselli Architects and constructed in Western Australia, these houses were created for shepherds. The roof is covered in soil for insulation from the heat and the cold:

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