Words by Amy King
Illustration by Sian Hopkins
Since the mid-20th century, the Earth’s air temperatures and appearance of weather phenomenon’s have forever been increasing. Global warming experts reported in 2019 that over 30 million of the UK’s homes were not in any condition to keep us comfortable, safe and protected in the changing climate. Due to the ever-changing conditions of the outdoors, architectures and climate experts have adapted buildings and the way in which they are run to cater around the mutating atmosphere and the conditions which it produces. Simplistic changes to properties such as green roofs and solar shading and panels have been seen on thousands of new and renovated properties within the UK and elsewhere, allowing homeowners to keep cool in the increasing heat. Although, multiple ecofriendly homes around the world have taken more extravagant approaches to these new adjustments, forming a new architectural and design market commonly known as Eco Homes.
The term ‘Eco Home’ is used to describe any house or building which has been created and designed with environmental and sustainability concerns in mind, hence the term ‘eco’. These types of homes can range from houses built entirely form recycles resources, to homes who only source their energy supplies from renewable sources such as water and sunlight. We think the following examples of sustainable and energy efficient houses fit these criteria.
Waste House, Brighton
Created and installed by the University of Brighton, the ‘Waste House’ is the first permanent British building built almost solely from waste and recycled materials. Around 90% of the building’s materials were waste products which were found and collected from various local construction sites and businesses, schools and households. This extensive collection of waste materials included 20,000 toothbrushes (used once by business and first-class aircraft passengers), 2 tons of denim jeans, 4,000 DVD cases, and 2,000 floppy discs. To insulate the building the designers used 4,000 VHS video cassettes as wall insulation and 500 bike inner tubes for window seals. The Waste House is a prime example of how innovative new architectural and interior designs can cater round the renewable world, in which the project organizer described as “there being no such thing as waste, just stuff in the wrong place.”
S House, Vietnam
Due to Vietnam’s low income, the main goals of the S House are durability, affordability, and ease of repair. The S House, designed by Vo Trong Nghia Architects, is made from transportable local materials such as Nipa Palm leaf thatching and bamboo, which are used by local builders to construct the simple dimensions of the property. This allows the structures to be mass produced by locals by renewable materials, giving builders in regional towns incomes and affordable housing for villagers.
The Echo Arch, Kent
Featured on Channel 4’s Grand Designs series in the UK, this parabolic arch structure is formed from thousands of tiny clay tiles and gravel which create a highly insulated outer layer which allows wild grasses and flowers to seed. Its large south facing windows allow the energy of the sun to heat its heavy eco-concrete flooring, whilst creating a vast amount of natural sunlight throughout all seasons.
Passivhaus Treehouse, The Cotworlds
Located in the centre of a Cotswold market town, this eco treehouse is built with triple glazing features and a mechanical ventilation with heat recovery system. This allows the house to run even in the absence of electricity, a concept highly recommended in the renewable and eco building friendly community due to the amount of carbon emissions this energy source produces. The entire buildings flooring was also repurposed from a sports hall, further demonstrating its renewability and the capability of using existing materials to construct a new build.
Prefabricated Kit Homes, USA
Prefabricated kit homes, commonly known as ‘prefab houses’, are homes built in a controlled manufactured environment facility where parts of houses are constructed in factories and transported to building sites in pieces to avoid the overuse of materials and creation of mass on site waste. Prefab houses also avoid labor overruns and the creation of bad materials from weather conditions due to their quick and easy construction time. Each home is designed and created with energy efficiency and sustainability in mind due to its low environmental footprint and use of renewable and recycle materials and structures.
Slip House, London
Formulated by Carl Turner Architects, slip houses are situated in affordable brownfield sites where commonly designed homes would once not appear. Most commonly slotted between rows of terraced houses in London or industrial streets, the slip houses orthogonal box shaped structure fit into small spaces whilst still permitting large living spaces for habitants. Each design is fitted with a rainwater harvesting tank, solar panels, mechanical ventilation, triple glazing, and a high level of insulation – all of which saves up to 1092.73 kg (1.2 ton) of CO2 per year, according to the designers. The architects of these properties hope to promote the accessibility and affordability of sustainable family homes in areas which are often deemed as non-eco friendly and uneconomic.