Culturally, we appear to be coming full circle when it comes to building homes for the future. Modest, frugal homes gave way to excessive and “large” living in the 70’s and 80’s.
Soon, though, developing countries began to realize the toll that living in excess was taking. Today, incorporating environmentally conscious green technologies and practices into home building is becoming not only acceptable but desirable.
We are coming, as a population, to realize and even embrace the idea of modest, sustainable living. Today’s home builders are catering more and more to the environmentally conscious home owner. Homes for the future are being built today with green technologies such as:
1) Photovoltaic (PV) roof integrated solar electric power systems: Think solar energy panels, but with more style. Photovoltaic (PV) roof integrated solar electric power systems are so named because they do more than generate power from the sun. They also look modern and stylish.
PV panels are integrated into home building right from the design process. Panels replace traditional roofing materials, and the rest of the home is designed around them. Aesthetically, they are more pleasing than the old way of doing solar roof panels.
Incorporating PV technology from the planning stage costs only slightly more and sometimes even the same as using standard roofing materials. Any extra costs incurred at the time of building are returned in dividends with the amount of energy consumption averted. The system pays for itself hundreds of times over in the lifetime of the home.
2) Solar water heating: These home water heaters are gaining in popularity and are becoming more commonplace in new construction homes. Solar water heaters use concepts similar to PV technology.
Solar water heaters can be roof or ground-mounted. A panel catches the sun’s rays. Tiny conductor wires transmit this energy to the solar tank.
In areas with cold winters, back-up gas or electric boosters are installed in case there isn’t sufficient sunlight to heat the tank. Solar water heaters save hundreds of dollars annually in water heating costs.
3) “Green” walls: Some of today’s homes for the future are being built with some highly unusual wall materials. Bales of straw, old tires and sandbags are just a few of these unconventional yet highly environmentally conscious “green” materials. Such green materials are readily available, cheaply-obtained, and some, like strawbale, are biodegradable and renewable.
4) Recycled building materials: Modern home builders are finding some very innovative ways to re-use all kinds of materials when constructing a house. Parts from retired airplanes, old wine corks and broken mirrors are three such materials. Giving such materials a second life keeps landfills emptier and makes for some very interesting and beautiful architecture.
5) Local materials: It’s a little bit like the “100 Mile Diet” for houses. Incorporating local materials into a new construction home’s design isn’t always less expensive for the builder. However, it is more responsible.
Sticking to local materials saves shipping fuel, manpower and manufacturing costs. It pumps money into local economies which benefits everyone in a community.
Some builders even work hard to use materials that are both local and recycled. Homes near oceans, for instance, can be fashioned using driftwood and salvaged logs.
Builders cite increased cost as a major reason for avoiding some of these green products and concepts. However, as more builders of homes for the future embrace environmentally conscious green building technologies, some of these will likely drop in price.
Other builders, like Scot Sandstrom of New Pointe Communities in Rancho Bernardo, CA, feel cost shouldn’t influence the integration of green technologies. These builders do what they do because it’s simply the right thing to do. Embracing such environmentally conscious green building technologies and practices will set the pace for all homes for the future.
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