Green Energy House


It takes more than a roof filled with  solar collectors  and pv panels to make a green energy house.  Although harvesting the sun's energy is one aspect of  green energy buildings there are other things to consider. For one thing not all houses are compatible with solar applications. Things like site location, roof orientation and insulation are also important. Retrofitting an existing home with energy efficient solar applications is always a possibility, but the best time to plan an energy independent house is before itís built. Besides the solar factors and the insulation factors and the design factors we should also use green materials to reduce the carbon footprint. 

What is a green material? 
Thought youíd never ask. Green materials are local materials that are in plentiful supply OR recycled materials that would otherwise be in landfills. Letís take a look at some houses that use green construction materials.





Adobe Houses are made from the desert clay upon which they are built. This type of house would not be suitable in a cold damp climate in the northern part of the US, but in a south west area like New Mexico adobe houses are ideal. With little money and a lot of hard work it's possible to build a beautiful energy efficient house made from  mud bricks . The mud bricks are reinforced with straw to hold them together. These materials are in plentiful supply and locally available. Since there's an ample supply of sunlight in New Mexico the adobe walls gather solar heat during the day and release it gradually at night. This is an example of direct gain solar heating that moderates the temperature extremes found in desert areas. A few solar collectors or perhaps a small supplemental heating system may be needed to get some people through the cold New Mexican nights, but most of the heating requirements for this adobe home involve passive solar heat gain.

This adobe house has been stuccoed with cement. To hold cement in place chicken wire is bonded to the outside of the house and pulled tight. The scratch coat is then covered with a thin layer of  pink flavored cement to give that finished look.





Cordwood Construction is an excellent option for people living in cold a northern climate with an ample supply of trees.  The R value of a log 12" log is higher than a 4" wall packed with insulation and a little insulation is placed on top of the logs to prevent conduction through the cement.

This is a simple example of cord wood construction. The cord wood replaces cement blocks that would be used  in a more conventional construction. BUT the advantage of using logs has to do with  the insulating value of the wood and also the low cost.

Exterior siding and interior insulation covered with drywall are not part of cord wood construction. Once the logs are cemented in place between a frame the wall is finished. 

Notice this log end home uses nine foot long logs for the corner frame of the house. It could just as well have been framed in 6x6 posts.






Strawbale Construction is another alternative for people who live in Nebraska and all the other states that have a plentiful supply of straw. Straw bale houses have an extremely high R value and once stuccoed with cement and plaster they take on a comfortable grandeur of their own.. 

This unfinished house may not look very attractive BUT once it's finished the heating bill for this little North Dakota dwelling will put ma serious dent in the heating bill.

Notice Styrofoam insulation has been bonded to the outside of the foundation wall. Without this insulation heat conservation would be imposible.. 

The Styrofoam must be protected in the same way that the straw is protected. This is done by first wrapping the entire house with chicken wire before applying cement. This Ferro Cement application combines the tinsel strength of steel with the compression strength of concrete. 




Earth Shelters combine the green technologies of adobe construction, cord wood construction and straw bale construction. The hobbits who lived in the Shier lived in earth shelters. J. R. R. Tolkien has been an inspiration for many green people motivated to make an intimate connection with the earth and mother nature.,

Simple caves were the original earth dwellings. Over time evolving technologies led to the construction of customized caves  now called earth shelters. Today earth shelter construction is a rare especially in the U.S.A. During the 1973 Oil Crisis, there was a back-to-the-land movement, and a renewed interest  in earth shelters and underground home construction. In the 70's many frustrated college students became interested in this: back to the land, self sufficient, sustainable lifestyle.  Unfortunately,  earth shelter construction never became very popular and has been viewed by architects, engineers, and the public as unconventional. Natural earth shelter materials and methods are not common knowledge, and much of society still remains unaware of the benefits. 

Using the earth's, thermal mass to moderate temperature as well as offer protection from the harsh extremes of climate are a few benefits. Other advantages of earth dwelling include energy savings, privacy, efficient use of land,  low maintenance and sustainability.




 

A more conventional Solar House uses more conventional building materials but this kind of dwelling is still considered a green energy home because it makes efficient use of renewable construction materials such as lumber and cellulose insulation. Remember the essential features of a green energy home minimize the carbon footprint. Roofing material that would normally be used to frame an attic are used to create additional living space with a steep south facing wall. This south roof/wall maximizes sunlight exposure with minimum materials. Notice the South roof is lined with a full array of collectors. Some engineers say this is too much. BUT in a cold climate an energy independent house needs a lot of heat and a lot of insulation. If the roof were not lined with collectors the second floor would overheat so these collectors actually prevent the roof from overheating in summer. If the heated water is stored in a well insulated heat storage vault unwanted heat would never be a problem.

The solar greenhouse provide additional heat for the house in winter and also provides a space to keep plants alive all year long. Just imagine what it would be like to pick a Cherry Tomato in January when your front lawn is covered with snow.









    


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