A Tale of Two Green Homes


| 11/2/2014 3:41:00 PM


Tags: natural building, off the grid, architecture, home energy, passive solar, Colorado, Leigha Dickens,

If you spend enough time in the environmental movement, you'll undoubtedly get wrapped up in the philosophical discussions of what is the most “green.” Paper, or plastic? Off-grid, or grid-tied? Such debates are naturally going to arise in a movement whose goal is to improve the way people live on this planet, because the act of living affects our natural world many varied ways. Sometimes, improvement in one aspect of environmental impact has unintended consequences in another.

Green building is not without its own debates of this ilk. Should a new insulation product capable of drastically dropping energy consumption be used, even if it is manufactured with chemicals whose toxicity is not well studied? Should I stay in my existing energy hog of a home here in town, or build a new green home in a location that requires me to drive many miles each day to work and the nearest grocery store? Any project that successfully transforms from dream to reality is going to have to accept some compromises between competing environmental concerns. I work with customers every day who must contemplate these trade-offs, and have observed that green home projects are often guided by one of two very different general philsophies, each with their separate focus on what it means to be a truly green residence.

Resilient Off Grid Home Colorado

The Resilient, Self-Sufficient Approach

This school of thought is the older of the two. The goal is to disconnect the home altogether from the environmentally problematic systems that modern homes depend upon, supporting its own needs in a more sustainable manner.

This kind of green home has a plan for everything. Not connected to the electrical grid at all, a solar array, wind turbine, micro-hydro generator, or any combination of the above will charge batteries to power the electrical essentials of this house—although a propane generator is in place when even these systems fail. Heating for this home also often comes from propane, (it is generally too far away from town to have natural gas service) in combination with a trusty wood stove. Water comes from wells, greywater, and rain barrels; much of the food comes from the site. This home likely features strong passive solar design, and will be well insulated—although preferably with natural insulation materials such as cotton or sheep’s wool. Some modern conveniences, such as air-conditioning, are likely foregone, although enough will remain to satisfy the particular wants and hobbies of the homeowner.




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