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Can a Modern Green Home Be Built for $100K?

Follow Philly’s Postgreen as they attempt to build a modern green home for $100,000. Just over a year ago, Philadelphia developer Postgreen undertook an ambitious project, to build a modern green home for $100,000.  Not only are they seeking to shatter the myth that green homes are unaffordable, but they are documenting every step on their site, 100KHouse.com.  Located in the New Kensington area of Philadelphia, the house will be a roughly 1,000 square foot two bedroom one and a…

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How To Plaster Walls: Natural Clay Plaster Finishes

Earthen plasters provide a beautiful, soft, and an organic finishing touch to your home, whether they be a straw bale house, cob building, wood cabin, or even plain old sheetrock walls. A simple natural plaster can be mixed from ingredients straight from the earth, including sand, clay, and fibers such as straw, cattail fluff, or even cow manure. It’s a simple process and a creative one, too: you can let your imagination shine through earthen plaster with its vast sculptability…

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Natural Building 101: How To Make an Earthen or Adobe Floor

When mention of an “earthen floor” is made, one might imagine a dusty, drab dirt floor. Earthen floors are far from this, however; instead they are very elegant, durable, inexpensive, and ecologically sustainable solutions to a typical floor installation. They are varied in construction, but the idea and ingredients are essentially the same across the board. Earthen (or adobe) floors are poured or compacted combinations of sand, clay, straw, and sometimes crushed rock, with pleasantly smooth surfaces resistant to wear…

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Built By Hand Book: Traditional Natural Building Designs Around The World

Imagine houses with six feet-thick seaweed roofs, deep-nestled and hand-carved cave homes, and pigeon-harboring huts made of mud. Sounds a little unreal, huh? Well, this and more is all vividly documented in Built By Hand: Vernacular Buildings Around the World, a most inspiring bit of natural building eye candy I recently had the fortune of stumbling upon. Built by Hand is a hardcover collection of photographs of traditional buildings of all styles across the globe. If you weren’t already appalled…

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Reciprocal Roof Frame Building: How-To, Materials, and Supplies

Earlier this year, I was introduced to the concept of a so-called “reciprocal roof frame”. After hearing about the concept from a friend, we later browsed the internet in search of natural buildings featuring this mysterious design. When I finally saw examples of different reciprocal roofs, I was immediately enamored: here was a roof structure so totally simple, strong, and above all, beautiful. A reciprocal roof is a self-supporting, round structure composed of interlocking beams that equally bear the weight…

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Green Prefab From Across the Pond

I happened to live in France back in 2002, and during my year there I noticed a pretty significant gap between sustainability as practiced in Europe in the US. In Europe, I was working with large public companies who were already integrating the implications of global warming and sustainbility into their businesses. In the US (and sadly still today), many companies were still arguing whether global warming even existed! This difference was also evident in houshold products – from luxury…

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Super-Effficient Water-Saving Shower

Showering is one of the major uses of domestic water. Showering is responsible for roughly 18% of indoor water use. But with a new kind of shower system invented in Australia, showering could, according to the manufacturer, use 4 times less water and save up to 87% of the energy used in typical showering. Australia has been suffering through a drought for the last several years. Since 2003, most of Australia has been experiencing the most severe drought conditions on…

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More Cities Explore Modular Construction

Another Pacific Northwest city is exploring modular design as an option for supplying affordable, green housing. The Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) in Tacoma, Washington, is in the conceptual design phase with its 110-unit modular housing community known as Hillsdale Heights. The complex will be located on a 7.3 acre site formerly occupied by the Hillsdale Lumber sawmill; 60 of the units will be low-income rentals, and the remaining 50 will be affordable townhomes. The project was designed by Seattle firm GGLO, who has…

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How to Stop Your Fireplace from Being an Energy Eater

Editor’s Note: This post was provided by one of our paid sponsors, Chimneyballoon. Stop heat and AC from escaping through your fireplace or woodburner chimney with a Chimney Balloon fireplace plug draft stopper. On a cold winter evening, who of us is not tempted to go to the living room, stoke up a fire in the fireplace, and read a book in front of the hearth? You may be thinking “I am doing myself a favor by supplementing the furnace…

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A Rational Discussion on Radon in Granite Countertops

This post is a follow-up to The Fight Over Radon in Granite Countertops Heats Up, which will provide some background information on the granite/radon issue. With the legion of both deniers and alarmists out there attempting to monopolize the discussion over the safety of granite countertops, it is difficult to find unbiased information.  Peruse the comments in the above post and you can see the discussion has devolved into name calling.  The deniers, many of whom work in the granite…

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Natural Building 101: Building a Cob House

What is cob? Cob building dates back hundreds of years ago, and cob houses built over 500 years ago in Europe are still inhabited to this day. That’s pretty dang impressive considering the simple nature and composition of the material: buckets of wet clay and sand are mixed by foot (or by horse, oxen, concrete mixer, or even Bobcat excavators) and then combined with straw to produce a sticky, malleable material that can be rolled into palm-sized loaves (or “cobs”,…

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New Options for Home Wind Power

Utility-scale windpower is an important and growing part of the US energy portfolio. Farms ranging in size from dozens to hundreds of turbines can produce in excess of 60 megawatts of power. Plans for gigawatts of wind power are being proposed all over the globe, and new wind farms are regularly being proposed that outstrip one another to be the largest in their respective locations, or in the world. At the far end of the scale, the largest size wind…

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Building a DIY Wetland

A family in Australia has created their own tiny wetland as a part of a household grey water system.  It is a fairly large DIY project, but, as the article demonstrates, not an overwhelming project.  The writer even enlisted his young children to help in the construction. Black water is toilet waste and other water that requires more substantial treatment.  Grey water is non-sewer waste water from washing clothes and showers and the like.  Although in most homes, both black…

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Are Extruded Houses Green?

For several years, Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis at the University of Southern California has been working on systems for rapidly creating buildings with system that is essentially a very large 3-dimensional printer.  Called Contour Crafting, the equipment is able to rapidly build up walls.  Already, test runs have been able to produce six-foot high concrete walls. One goal of the team developing this technology is to be able to build a house in a day, a goal that they hope to…

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Energy Efficiency at -30 Degrees Fahrenheit

Across the arctic and subarctic, many native tribes still occupy their traditional lands — but most do so in decidedly non-traditional ways. Western products of every description have been adopted by northern peoples, but one of the products that is least suited to the northern climate has also become one of the most widespread: wood frame housing. All of the materials necessary to build a wood frame house must be shipped into subarctic regions. Once built, a house in the…

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Basics to Building a Better Green Home

Editor’s Note: This post was provided by one of our paid sponsors, Solar Energy International (SEI), a USA non-profit organization whose mission is to help others use renewable energy and environmental building technologies through education. SEI teaches individuals from all walks of life how to design, install and maintain renewable energy systems, and how to design and build efficient, sustainable homes. SEI offers trainings online and in 22 locations around the world. Homes built today are generally twice as efficient…

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