To build your own green home is something that many of us dream of, but likely will never do. But if you’re handy with a straw bale (!), this post is for you. Most buildings these days use concrete and brick, but there are better ways to build a home, which are naturally insulated, protective against unwelcome visitors (mice!) and also let buildings breathe, especially if plastered with eco-materials like lime. Most green homes also cost less to build, the main issue seems to be finding land!
- Good books on green building are The Passivhaus Handbook (how to build an energy-efficient home) and Green Home Building (a good overview on all the different green building materials).
- Building a Sustainable Home is a good overview of the green building movement. Learn why green homes are better, and how they also save energy, water and bills. An ideal book for architects.
- Barn Club is the interesting tale of a community in Hertfordshire, who ‘raised a green barn’ (a bit like they do in the Amish film ‘Witness’).
- Straw bale is the waste leftover from the farming industry, which if burned creates climate change. However it’s one of the best materials to build cheap warm homes, and is as safe as wood. You can even buy straw bale bricks. Read A Complete Guide to Straw Bale Building.
- Cob is a mix of clay and a few other materials. Very simple to use, it’s often used to make outbuildings, Cornwall has many pretty pastel cob houses. Building with Cob (the authors are experts in natural plasters and run Clayworks, which sells naturally-coloured clay plasters).
- Hempcrete is another waste material (made from hemp and lime).
Where to Buy Green Building Materials
- Green Spec and Green Building Store both offer green building materials, with expert advice to back you up.
- Green Leaf Brick is the world’s only fired masonry brick and paver line, made from 100% recycled content, with up to 31% post-consumer waste streams. Most major towns and cities also sell reclaimed bricks.
- Supasoft Insulation is a safe and sustainable alternative to glass fibre insulation. Whereas recycled plastic clothing is not so good (it leaches microplastics in the washing machine), for house insulation it’s a wonderful idea, as it uses up 12,000 plastic bottles to insulate a typical loft. It’s long-lasting and easy to install, and the energy savings pay for themselves within a few years. Use it to insulate between and over joists, or lay on top of existing insulation to improve insulation performance.
Innovative Ideas in Green Building
- Housing Reclaimed is the story of organisations like Builders of Hope that takes homes slated for demolition, then use local skills and free recycle materials, to turn them into safe affordable (free!) housing.
- Rebuilding Centre (Oregon) is an inspirational non-profit that we could emulate. It takes donated building materials, to train people in using their skills to build affordable homes.
- Build Up is an organisation that puts young people in charge of construction projects, to benefit the community. Instead of the adults building skateboard parks for teenagers, the youngsters get involved themselves in creating the kind of town they want to live, with beautiful functional buildings and green space
Green Buildings Worldwide
- The Sustainable City: London’s Greenest Architecture looks at the city of innovation where green roofs grow on flats, homes are insulated with cork, and light timber structures have been designed to be as beautiful as they are energy efficient. In the centre, striking new offices are retro-fitted over preserved buildings, while communal hubs are creatively built from reclaimed materials.
- The Houses We Build looks at how we can build safe, comfortable and energy-efficient homes, without contributing to climate change and habitat destruction. It looks at how people worldwide use nature to come up with the best solutions (including igloos, which use snow to trap body heat).
- Homes for a Changing Climate is a showcase of homes across the world, that have been built to adapt to climate change: they can withstand floods, high winds, intense rainstorms and rising sea levels.
- Design Like You Give a Damn is a book by and for architects. It showcases 100 projects worldwide that address the need for basic shelter, housing, education, health care, clean water and clean energy. From smog-eating concrete to re-painting Brazilian slums, this book looks at how to create positive change.
- Download this 15-page healthy home checklist from a building biologist.