Understanding eco-friendly houses: A guide to sustainable living

The European green buildings market size is expected to reach US$444.33 billion by 2032. Largely driven by the region’s robust commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility, Europe’s eco-friendly housing market is thriving! In fact, the European Union (EU) aims to renovate 35 million buildings by 2030 to enhance climate-friendliness and ensure energy and resource efficiency.

Gone are the days when ‘going green’ was merely a lifestyle choice. Today, it’s a necessity and a collective responsibility that we must fulfill to ensure the well-being of our planet and future generations. To keep up with evolving governmental regulations and industry-wide standards, the construction industry must understand new green construction techniques, such as eco-friendly houses, that are redefining the way we build and are here to stay. Keep reading to learn more!

What is an eco-friendly house?

Since the Paris Agreement treaty on climate change in 2015, there has been a surge in the construction and development of homes labeled as “sustainable,” “eco-friendly,” and “green.” So, you may be wondering, “what’s the difference?” and “what actually makes an eco-friendly house ‘eco-friendly’”?

Eco-friendly building, also known as green building, focuses on reducing the negative environmental impacts of construction. It involves planning, constructing, and managing buildings in an intelligent manner to utilize resources efficiently, conserve energy, and minimize waste. The primary goal is to develop buildings that have minimal environmental impact and conserve natural resources.

In contrast to eco-friendly building, sustainable building goes further by considering social, economic, and environmental factors. It adopts a holistic approach to create buildings that are eco-friendly, and economically sustainable in the long term. Sustainable building practices include using renewable energy sources, incorporating recycled and locally sourced materials, and optimizing resource efficiency.

The concept of an ecological house first emerged in the late 70s thanks to the American architect Edward Mazria. Mazria published a book called “Passive solar energy book,” which explored the integration of home architecture with renewable energy. Back then, concerns about pollution were already sparking debates, and visionaries like Mazria took a small but significant step toward finding solutions. His goal was to make everyday people part of the solution by embracing practical and easy-to-implement green technologies in their homes.

An ecological house is characterized by its minimal environmental impact and lower energy consumption. To authentically earn the label ‘eco,’ a new construction must consider both the embodied energy utilized during its creation and its operational efficiency once construction is completed. Below are just a few examples of technologies and features you can find in many eco-friendly homes.

An eco-friendly house supported by aerothermal, solar panels and wind energy

Technologies & features in eco-friendly homes

An eco-friendly house goes beyond the limits of traditional construction, revolutionizing the concept of housing. Here are some examples of technologies and features that define this type of dwelling:

Generative AI

Generative AI has the potential to revolutionize environmental impact and construction processes. AI technology in the construction industry can be used to save energy by looking at info about the environment, building rules, and people’s preferences. It works by suggesting personalized ways for people to use energy more efficiently.

For instance, it could analyze weather patterns in an area to suggest where windows and doors should be placed to get more natural light and less artificial light. It could also look at how people like to use their appliances and recommend ways to reduce their energy usage. Generative AI is also a great ally for builders! It enables them to analyze data on the availability and cost of different building materials. This means they can figure out how to use recycled materials in a house design to get the most bang for their buck.

Recycled materials

Recycled materials stand out as a leading solution in sustainable home construction. Opting for these materials helps curb the depletion of natural resources linked to producing new ones and reduces waste, thereby alleviating environmental impact. Recycled materials, such as recycled concrete, involve repurposing concrete from demolished structures for use in new buildings or refurbishment projects. This practice stands out as a leading solution for making construction greener.

Water efficiency technologies

Water efficiency technologies play a big role in sustainable construction. Methods such as reusing greywater, collecting rainwater, and using water-saving fixtures ensure that water is effectively managed, recycled, and available for everyday use.

For instance, rainwater harvesting can be seamlessly integrated into eco-friendly architecture through rooftop collection. Overall, these water-efficient construction technologies cut down on water bills and contribute to water conservation, great for cost savings and the environment! Who wouldn’t want that?

Green insulation

Green insulation is a sustainable construction tech that eliminates the need for fancy finishes made from non-renewable materials. Insulation is utilized for thermal purposes and offers solutions for acoustic, fire, and impact concerns. But here’s a little-known secret: you don’t have to use expensive, super-polished materials. Green insulation, using materials like cellulose fiber or hemp, addresses both the environmental and financial drawbacks of traditional methods. In a nutshell, it lines the walls with recycled and or renewable materials.

Geothermal systems

Geothermal systems are nature’s way of regulating your home’s temperature. Geothermal heating is different from traditional heating systems that rely on fossil fuels. Instead, it harnesses the Earth’s natural heat, which makes it a renewable energy source.

Plus, geothermal heating systems can even cool your home during the summer, cutting down on the need for other cooling methods. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), traditional heating and cooling systems gobble up almost half of the world’s energy and pump out loads of CO2. But geothermal heating systems don’t emit any gases, so they’re a key player in hitting sustainability targets and shrinking our carbon footprint. The use of these systems at home is a major win for our planet!

Solar power

Solar power stands out as a leading option in the construction of clean technologies, as highlighted by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). That’s why so many eco-friendly houses have solar panel roofs. According to SEIA, solar power represented 48% of all new electricity-generating capacity added to the United States grid in the first quarter of 2023.

Types of eco-friendly houses

There is an array of groundbreaking eco-friendly houses that you may have already heard of. Next up, we’ll spill the details on the most famous ones and what makes them stand out.

1. Prefabricated homes

Prefabricated homes take only a fraction of the time to build compared to traditionally built homes, think just a couple of weeks compared to months or even years!

Manufactured in advance in factories and swiftly assembled on-site, prefabricated homes can also deliver enhanced energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Why? Well, these homes provide exceptional flexibility to accommodate a family’s changing needs, minimizing the need for constructing an extra house or replacing one entirely. Their adaptability ensures efficient space utilization.

Additionally, prefab houses can be constructed using environmentally friendly and sustainable materials, further decreasing the carbon footprint of traditional construction processes.

A prefabricated house

2. Tiny houses

Tiny houses typically span from about 100 to 140 square feet. They provide a unique, sustainable, and affordable housing option, especially suitable for mobile living. Eco-friendly tiny houses stand out because of their reduced carbon footprint. These compact homes are substantial energy-savers, demanding less water, heat, and air. Generally, tiny homes have lower utility bills because they occupy less space, making them a very economical residential option!

3. Zero-carbon homes

These homes are incredibly energy-efficient, proudly claiming an annual net carbon footprint of zero. Zero-carbon homes achieve this by using renewable electricity from solar panels, small wind turbines, and other sustainable sources. They produce more than enough renewable energy to cover their needs, often creating extra, which earns them the ‘net-zero emissions’ label. These homes seamlessly integrate sustainability with a traditional aesthetic.

4. Passive houses

Passive houses are super-efficient homes designed for optimal energy savings and comfort. They follow rigorous standards, including extreme airtightness, continuous insulation, and high-performance windows and doors. Incorporating sustainable design, these houses maximize energy efficiency while ensuring year-round comfort for residents.

The principal difference between a passive house and a zero-carbon home lies in their respective focuses. A passive house emphasizes reducing energy demand by minimizing heat loss and gain, while a zero-carbon home concentrates on increasing energy supply through on-site electricity generation.

Thermal insulation for an eco-friendly house

5. Shipping container homes

The main idea behind shipping container homes involves repurposing discarded shipping containers, originally used for sea transport, into fully functional dwellings. These steel giants, whether stacked or combined for structural purposes, exhibit a modern, industrial aesthetic. They can function either as standalone homes or personal offices, and multiple containers can be combined to create a multilevel residence.

Serving as eco-friendly examples of upcycling, these homes often feature energy-efficient elements like windows, water heaters, and other specialized components designed to minimize carbon emissions. Additionally, container homes necessitate fewer resources for transportation compared to traditional building materials.

Cemex Ventures’ and its compromise with eco-friendly construction

Cemex Ventures is committed to helping drive the sustainable revolution of the construction industry by investing in, partnering with, and accelerating Contech, Cleantech, & Climatech solutions.

If your startup offers a solution to make the construction industry more eco-friendly, stay tuned and apply to Construction Startup Competition 2024 under the Green Construction (sustainability) vertical. Coming very soon!

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