When you think of green architecture, do you picture a sleek, energy-efficient but boring-looking building? You shouldn't. Not only can green architecture help protect the environment and reduce energy costs for the building's occupants, it can also lead to some amazing design!
Green architecture is an emerging field that focuses on using low impact materials to create a completed structure that's energy efficient and environmentally friendly. Green buildings can vary from simple structures made from natural materials to more technologically focused designs that use elements like solar panels to reduce the building's impact.
Unlike conventional architecture, part of designing a green building is taking the structure's impact into account. That means not only looking at the building materials' environmental impact, but also considering elements like indoor air quality and water and energy conservation.
Just as with any other sort of design, green building can range from the utilitarian to the absolutely gorgeous. You might associate green architecture with things like plastic rain barrels or solar panels that clash with the design of the home, but green design has come a long way.
1. A green roof can lower the temperature in your house, improve local air quality and help add green space in urban areas where concrete is king. It can also provide a nesting area for birds!
Basically, a green roof is a sort of rooftop garden. To create a green roof, you lay down a waterproof barrier, material for drainage, a layer of soil, and plants. It's best to have a contractor experienced with eco-friendly designs help plan and build a green roof, since the weight of the plants and soil might require that you increase the supports for your roof. An expert can also help you pick low- maintenance plants that will thrive on your roof. The plants help insulate, filter rainwater, and combat habitat depletion for some area wildlife
2. Solar panels are an excellent way to save energy and reduce energy bills, and sometimes even earn you money. If your solar array produces more energy than you're using in your home, many utility companies will buy that excess power back from you to use in the electric grid. The problem with solar panels, from a design perspective, is that they can be a little bit of an eyesore. There are a couple of different sorts of solar shingles on the market: thin-film or silicon-based. Thin-film shingles cost a bit less, but they also tend to produce less energy per square foot than the silicon-based shingles.
3. Cob is an ancient building material that's basically wet earth and straw mixed together and rolled into loaf-sized pieces or cobs. The mixture is very similar to clay, and what makes cob houses unique and beautiful is the organic shape. Instead of assembling and covering a frame, builders stack cobs, then use the same clay-like material to mold the walls by hand. The result is a structure with curving lines instead of sharp angles, and many cob structures include lots of fun, built-in features like shelves and hooks molded right into the walls. Some of these homes even feature built-in furniture, like couches and tables, molded from cob.
4. The basic idea behind a rainwater harvesting system is to capture water to irrigate your garden and sometimes to use in the home. When you think of rain barrels, you probably picture an ugly, plastic container to catch water, maybe with a spigot to feed the garden, but rainwater harvesting systems can also be beautiful.
Systems can be as simple as a plastic barrel, but companies like Rain X-change offer stunning rainwater harvesting systems that look like an urn or a fountain. Rather than the typical DIY rain barrel that you're probably used to seeing, these more elaborate setups collect rainwater while enhancing the beauty of your lawn. The collection system is underground, so that you can collect, store and use rainwater without sullying your landscape.
5. Like with cob houses, shipping container buildings address the high impact associated with traditional building materials. Instead of using new materials that have to be manufactured, shipping container homes reclaim old shipping crates and use them to create prefabricated structures. Shipping crates can be stacked vertically or lined up side-by-side to create residential or commercial buildings. There are a few different ways to build a shipping container home, depending on how ambitious you are.