Building an Affordable, Sustainable Home – Green Homes – MOTHER EARTH NEWS housing benefit number leeds

• code compliance. We knew that we would be challenging some code prescriptions in our efforts, but we wanted to work with code officials and use alternative compliance pathways to ensure that the entire project was legal and aboveboard.

Soon, the house began to take shape. For the shell of the house, we used a blend of conventional and natural building approaches; whenever possible, we used off-the-shelf building materials and products that met our high standards. If we couldn’t source from a conventional building supply outlet, we went in search of better options elsewhere. Energy-efficiency targets and sustainable building materials

We made a conscious decision to build the house so it wouldn’t require fossil fuels. The electricity used to heat and power the home comes from a grid-tied 5-kw photovoltaic system on the roof.Housing benefit number leeds

A contract with bullfrog power ensures that we’re using renewable energy even when our system isn’t directly providing power.

Two solar hot water collectors provide about 65 percent of the home’s annual hot water needs, and an electric on-demand tankless heater provides the rest. The building is rainwater-ready, and we’re looking forward to setting up that system soon.

In the end, we succeeded in building a home that earns about CA$1,500 more than its annual utility costs. (all figures are in canadian dollars.) it uses 70 percent less energy and 71 percent less water than comparable homes, and, in the building process, we reduced the environmental impacts of construction by 47 percent and cut construction landfill waste by 89 percent. See the complete breakdown of figures in calculating energy costs and how the home stacks up.Housing benefit number leeds

We managed to exclude any interior materials that contain toxic or questionable chemicals and any materials that could cause environmental degradation in the harvesting or manufacturing processes. We even sourced 90 percent of the materials within a 250-kilometer radius of the building site.

There seems to be a pervasive notion that building “green” is more costly and complicated than conventional options. This house was CA$185 per square foot, which is well within the average range for custom construction in our part of the world. The home would also be easy to reproduce — there was nothing complicated in the design or construction, and building of this sort can be done for single-family dwellings, such as this one, or expanded for use in multi-unit structures. With minor adjustments, it could be delivered as affordable housing.Housing benefit number leeds

Building a sustainable home with this level of environmental performance isn’t difficult to do, but it requires the homeowners, designers, and builders to commit to meeting clear goals and using strategies that have been crafted by the whole team. It requires research and careful vetting of all products and materials to make sure they fit the goals, and it takes conscientious construction to ensure that the energy targets are met. But the reward is an affordable, nontoxic, beautiful home that has a truly minimal impact on the planet. Conventional building materials

Cellulose insulation. Used in the ceiling (with an insulation rating up to R-80) and in the framed walls around the windows (to R-40), this recycled-newsprint insulation has very low environmental impacts, no toxic off-gassing, and is very affordable.Housing benefit number leeds

Recycled-content drywall and hypoallergenic joint compound. Where drywall was used, we were able to source board with a very high recycled content. The joint compound from murco contains none of the toxins and chemicals found in typical drywall mud.

Durisol block foundation. Locally made insulated concrete forms (icfs) made from waste-wood chips bonded with cement and roxul insulation inserts. The basement wall achieves R-28 in a single, straightforward step and is chemical-free.

Poraver slab insulation. We bonded locally made expanded glass beads from poraver with a homemade hydraulic lime binder that uses poraver’s waste metakaolin as a key ingredient. The result is stable, impervious to water, and chemical-free.

Prefabricated straw bale wall panels. These straw bale walls were cast off-site and delivered as ready-to-be-installed panels.Housing benefit number leeds they cost less than any conventional wall system achieving R-30, and were made from locally sourced and chemical-free materials. They were also installed in a single day per floor, reducing labor time.

Clay and lime plaster. Many walls of the home feature clay or lime plaster in place of drywall. These site-mixed, wet-applied finishes are both beautiful and durable while having very low environmental impacts and no embedded toxins.

Natural clay, lime, and oil paints. Surface coatings were sourced from manufacturers that provide 100 percent nontoxic and biodegradable finishes that use clay, lime, or natural oils as their bases. As a side benefit, they’re also beautiful and durable.