How to build an eco-friendly small house

Written by jack s. waverly
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How to build an eco-friendly small house
(Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

The increase in awareness about environmental issues has been substantial in the early part of the 21st century. The quest to build eco-friendly housing and smaller houses has increased as the effort to reduce man's footprint on the world increased. It has become possible to combine both smaller housing size with eco-friendly construction and maintenance methods. New building techniques and materials have made this combination possible.

Skill level:
Challenging

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Things you need

  • Brick
  • Stone
  • Recycled building material
  • Solar panels
  • Rain barrels
  • Ceramic tile
  • Cement block

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Instructions

    Design

  1. 1

    Calculate the initial cost and the cost savings over time from your eco-friendly house. Determine if the initial cost is worth the investment in time it will take to realise the cost savings.

  2. 2

    Plan the overall size of the house. Use designs that cover 1,000 square feet or less. This square footage is equal to a 25-by-25 foot square with a 12-foot-high ceiling.

  3. 3

    Plan the floor space. Make the entire house an open floor plan on a single floor, if possible. Design the house as one large room. Insert walls where needed for the bathroom and kitchen; set these in the corners to maintain as much of the open space as possible.

  4. 4

    Design loft bedrooms. Allow the inside wall space remain open. Plan for the exterior walls to be made of glass to cut down on the need for additional lighting; place window or door openings in the front and back walls opposite each other for air flow and ventilation.

  5. 5

    Build the house into a hill. This allows the soil to act as insulation and help you maintain constant temperatures in the house. This also reduces the need for lumber and other man-made building materials.

    Materials

  1. 1

    Use eco-friendly materials requiring little transporation to the site. Find material that is natural, locally produced or available, and sustainable over time, and that requires minimal processing.

  2. 2

    Use stone found locally in slipform moulds to construct walls. Stone can be used for decorative features as well as support. Stone also acts to retain heat and moisture from the atmosphere, reducing the need for humidifiers or cooling or heating devices.

  3. 3

    Hunt down used construction material. Use cabinets, doors, doorknobs, handles or windows found from job sites or from remodelling projects. This eliminates the waste in landfills and can add to the aesthetics of your home. Examine the material before removing it from its current location for functionality.

  4. 4

    Use recycled brick or concrete blocks for the subfloor. Make sure the cement is removed completely before using these items. Lay out large ceramic tiles over the subfloor in decorative patterns. This creates a heat sink. The flooring will retain heat in winter while remaining cool in summer. This also reduces the need for carpeting or wood flooring, as well as the maintenance associated with those types of flooring.

    Construction

  1. 1

    Use the sun to light and heat various parts of the house. Install solar panels for heating water and running electricity. Install double panel windows on the north face of the home. Get these windows as large as you can afford to create a natural light source along with ventilation when the windows are open.

  2. 2

    Insulate the house walls and ceilings to hold in heat, where applicable.

  3. 3

    Use paints and stains that can breath; avoid oil-based material or material treated with chemicals.

    Maintenance

  1. 1

    Install water-saving items to reuse and optimise the efficiency of water use for most water needs. Build a rain harvesting tank to connect with washing machines or sinks to save on water. Install drip irrigation systems for the garden or lawn to minimise overwatering.

  2. 2

    Set up a compost bin outside the back door or near the garden. Recycle organic material into the compost to build fertiliser for the gardens.

  3. 3

    Install energy-saving devices in sinks and showers to reduce water flow while increasing efficiency. Install energy-efficient lighting where lighting as needed.

  4. 4

    Install a composting toilet to reduce water use further. Use the compost from the toilet to decrease the need for fertilisers in lawns or to build up low spots.

  5. 5

    Plant a windbreak along the north or east side of the home. Natural windbreaks using trees and brush eliminate drafts, heat loss and heat build-up from the sun, and also add to the landscaping.

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