Thursday, May 13, 2010

Home Green Home

An article I came across recently about a man who builds houses out of at least 80% recycled materials gave me the idea for this post about green homes. The man's name is Dan Phillips, and his Texas company builds low-income housing for single parents, artists and low-income families. He works together with a non-profit that helps to secure financing so that these individuals can take out an affordable mortgage to buy their home. He employs unskilled, minimum-wage laborers and teaches them valuable skills which they can then take to better-paying future jobs. So, his homes are great because they are keeping useable items out of the dump, they are providing job training for low-skilled workers, and they are giving poor people the chance to own their own home rather than living in housing projects. Because of the way they are constructed, these homes all have a one-of-a-kind look. You can look at some photos here:

Yurts are another type of "green" home. Based on the tents used by Central Asian nomads for centuries, they are lightweight, but weatherproof and strong. They consist of a durable fabric cover, and a wooden frame. The door is framed in, and there is a solid floor. Plumbing and electricity can be hooked up in these structures. They are easy and inexpensive to erect, use minimal materials, and have no negative impact on their surroundings. They can also be quite beautiful, as you can see here:

Tailor-made for minimalists, the Tiny House ranges from 65-140 square feet, and comes on wheels so it doesn't need a building permit. You can buy them already constructed, or build your own. They have a tiny kitchen, mini bathroom, a living-dining area, and a loft bedroom. They can be hooked up to plumbing and electricity, or use tanks and solar power like an RV. The heater runs on propane. You just tow it to where you want it, and you're ready to go! Slightly larger versions, the Small Houses range up to 800 square feet, all in one large room. You buy the plans for these, and build them yourself on location. Why are these homes green? If you live in such a small space, you use very little energy, and consume very little in general. Check out some photos here:

Aptly named, the Earthship uses mostly recycled materials such as used tires and aluminum cans. The tires are filled with earth, stacked up, and plastered with adobe or cement to conceal the tires. The cans are plastered over and used to make thin, curving interior walls. This type of house takes advantage of passive solar power to heat the house. The insulating effect of the earth in the tires keeps it cool. These houses often include systems to capture rainwater and reuse greywater. If artfully constructed these homes can be much more attractive than they sound, as you can see here:

The Straw Bale House has a traditional wooden frame, but the thick walls consist of bales of straw that have been plastered on both sides. These walls provide excellent insulation that minimizes the need for heating and cooling. These houses sometimes have a Hobbit-like quality. You probably noticed one incredible example at the previous link, before the Earthship as you scrolled down the page.

Living in one of these unusual homes can be a challenge. Short-sighted or simply unfamiliar with these types of homes, city officials can refuse to issue permits for them. Insurers sometimes have a hard time determining their value to insure them. Banks sometimes balk at loaning money for them. If you can get past these obstacles, you could really enjoy living in one of these inexpensive, environmentally sound abodes. Wouldn't you like to hang your hat in a place that will make your friends and family "green" with envy?


Zengirl @ Heart and Mind said...


I knew a few things and learned many new things here. Thanks for sharing wonderful and green home information. I like yurts or small homes, I have been pondering about if we can live in one with family of 4, or RV home!

We live in smaller 1200 sq ft place but sometimes it feels it is too large and fills up with stuff soon enough.

Anonymous said...

It never ceases to amaze me what some talented people can make out of seemingly nothing!

Betsy Bargain said...


I know what you mean. I couldn't believe the photos of some of those homes!


1200 sq ft. is already pretty good for a family of four with small children! When I lived alone, I lived in a 494 sq. ft condo, but now that I have Mr. Bargain, we have 1400 sq ft.. Mr. Bargain is definitely not a minimalist!

Betsy Bargain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I love the idea of a yurt but unfortunately i'm not a minimalist either..There's only one of me but it seems as though i often have enough stuff for three or four....I seriously need to pare down...I need to reread the blog you wrote on the subject

Betsy Bargain said...

I know what you mean, Anon. I don't think I am as much of a minimalist as some of the people I read about, but I'm always looking to streamline more.