Green building is one of the strongest, fastest-growing segments of the building industry. For students interested in architecture or construction engineering, green homes are in their future. Green or eco-friendly houses are built to maximise energy efficiency, rely primarily on renewable energy and reduce the home's overall environmental impact. Given the growing importance of eco-friendly building, students in older elementary through high school grades can benefit from learning about eco-friendly homes as part of their science and technology education. The design and building of a model eco-friendly house makes a great school project or science fair entry.
Have the student research eco-friendly house designs and features. Look in green building trade publications, green living magazines and websites such as Eco Friendly Houses or Environmental House Plan for ideas. Have the student decide which eco-friendly designs and features he wants to include in his model. Encourage him to choose features appropriate to his region. For example, homes in warm climates will need to include environmentally friendly cooling designs, whereas heating efficiency and renewable heat sources are most important in cold areas.
Help the student design an eco-friendly house. The student will have to decide on the dimensions of the house and record them for every part such as walls, roof sections, doors and windows. If the interior will be displayed, record all the room and doorway dimensions.
Decide on the scale for the model house. Choose a scale based on roughly how large the student wants the model to be when complete. Possible scales are 1/2 inch to 1 foot or 1/4 inch to 1 foot. Convert every dimension to scale, using a calculator if necessary.
Have the student draw the exterior walls and roof sections on paper for a rough draft of the model. Use rolled white paper or brown packaging paper so it can fit the model house dimensions. Tape the pieces together to get a sense of how the house will look.
Draw the parts of the house on cardboard and cut them out. Have the student use a ruler to draw the house lines and a box cutter to cut the cardboard smoothly. Cut out all the interior and exterior sections of the house before putting them together. Cut out all doors and windows.
The student can paint the house sections or use adhesive shelf paper or wallpaper.
Help the student assemble the house. Begin by gluing the exterior walls to provide support. Use either super glue or a hot glue gun. Super glue will hold up the best but leave no room for undoing errors. A hot glue gun allows for fast application and dries quickly. Complete the inside rooms and details if the inside of the house will be displayed. Attach the roof sections together, but leave the roof free to remove for viewing of the house's interior.
Add features to the house model. Have the student create all the eco-friendly features to add to the house. Depending on what she discovered in her research, such features might include solar panels, a wind turbine, a green roof, thermal pane windows, a rain barrel or other attributes. Aluminium foil works well as solar panels, fake turf or painted cotton can be used for greenery and Popsicle sticks are helpful for wind turbines, trim work and other accents. The student can decide what materials to use based on the specific features of her house.
Encourage the student to remember insulation in the model eco-friendly house. Make an attic space and fill it with cotton to demonstrate a well-insulated house.
Supervise elementary school aged children when using box cutters, or cut the cardboard for younger children yourself. Explain safe cutting practices to all students before they use a box cutter.