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12 Different Types of Eco-Friendly Homes and Features

Photo collage of different eco-friendly houses.

We can all do our bit for the environment whether it be taking out the recycling, turning the tap off while brushing your teeth or not leaving the lights on when you nip out to the shop.

But how can you take your home from being environmentally friendly to a fully sustainable eco home? Even if only a few of these ideas take your fancy, anything we can do to reduce carbon emissions is of utmost importance in our rapidly warming world.

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Eco-Friendly House Examples

1. Earthships

These homes really take eco-friendly to sky heights with its totally self-sustaining systems and natural sources of energy. These homes are made completely from natural or recycled material and heat the home naturally.

Eco-friendly homes built out of natural "earth" materials.

All energy is created from sources such as wind and solar power, with small-scale windmills and solar panels. All food is produced in or around the home and water is harvested naturally from rain or nearby rivers and streams.

Earthships are perfect examples of eco-friendly homes.

While there are absolutely no bills, no emissions and no need to ever leave your Earthship, unless you’ve just had a recent breakup with a psychotic ex you probably aren’t quite ready to run away to live totally off the grid by yourself.

However, ideas like making your own food can be highly beneficial to both your health, pocket and environment.

Sustainable Communities

If you need a bit of inspiration, the newly built town of Ebbsfleet Garden City in Kent has recently started a scheme that gets neighbours and friends involved in growing and harvesting their own food.

It’s called Edible Ebbsfleet and while it not only means you get to relish the joys of watching your own potatoes grow, but you get to know the community around you too.

And if you’re looking for a town that both embraces and nurtures its environment, the Kent valley is a great place to look at with affordable opportunities such as shared ownership in Ebbsfleet for the first-time buyers amongst us.

2. Rammed Earth

The very walls of this house are built entirely of tightly packed soil that creates a well-insulated, well protected and low-cost home. The fused soil gives a smooth rock design to the walls and allows for a modern eco-friendly feel.

Rammed earth style homes are not only eco-friendly, but can withstand the brutality of nature as well.

While this technique was good enough for the Great Wall of China it is also what is used to build sand castles, but don’t worry these homes are made with specialist soil that is specially formulated to withstand lots of weathering.

The walls are extremely thick between 19-24 inches which makes the interior extremely quiet, adding to the comfort and coziness of the house.

Rammed earth eco-friendly homes are also very modish and comfortable.

However, these homes come at a pretty penny as it involves a lot of labour intensive work. So while these finely designed structures might not be on your budget there are plenty of cheaper ways you can make your home energy efficient, quiet and warm just through insulation.

Pack the walls, ceiling and boiler room with plenty of insulating material and you’re not only cutting your carbon emissions but your energy bill too.

3. Prefab

These ‘prefabricated’ houses are built off-site and transported to the plot ready-made. Almost like a piece of Ikea furniture but you actually got the Ikea people to build it for you this time instead of fiddling with a screw that looks important but is never going to fit in that hole.

The way in which they are premade ensures no waste is produced in the construction as there are no skips and all measurements are exact.

Prefabricated homes are eco-friendly and features advance furniture and appliances inside.

They come in a range of luxury designs with eco-friendly features such as solar panels and are far cheaper than any other houses on the market some being as low as £50,000.

Prefab homes are usually costly because it already features solar panels.

4. Zero Carbon

Zero Carbon homes have absolutely no carbon emissions whatsoever. They do exactly what they say on the tin in terms of their sustainability and eco-efficiency meaning you leave no carbon footprint behind.

Zero Carbon homes are not just eco-friendly but are very healthy for every families.

Equipped with the newest eco-friendly technology they generate all their energy from sustainable sources.

A surprising number of homes can actually be turned into zero carbon by investing in solar panels, insulation and a water pump meaning not only do you know you’re benefiting the environment but these appliances will also pay for themselves.

If you want to go small scale why not collect rainwater.

It’ll save you getting the hose out to water the plants and will cut down your water bill without having to build a hydroelectric power station on the side of your house.

5. Earth sheltered houses

If you’re looking to live in something as close to a cave as possible this is the one for you. These homes are built into the side of land, most often a hill, in which the Earth provides all its insulation.

Earth sheltered houses provide natural vibe, peaceful atmosphere and comfortable feel.

These homes are very warm and quiet, similar to ramming, as the density of soil provides a thick outer layer. You can even build your home completely underground or simply create piles of Earth that are built up against the walls and around the structure for the same insulating effect.

There is no need to worry about the ground freezing in winters or drying and cracking in summer as the house will be built using three meters of soil which is far deeper than temperature change can reach in the ground.

However, they have to be very tightly sealed as rain will seep through the Earth and so the design must be intricately thought out.

Earth sheltered houses are also very stylish when structured correctly.

While these elaborately designed homes may be just out of reach, there are plenty of ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint without moving to some remote part of the Swiss Alps and eating berries for the rest of your life.

Simple changes around the home can make a big impact on the environment and your pocket. Just give it a bit of thought next time you’re choosing between a shower and bath or deciding whether to click on the thermostat or grab a cosy throw and a hot chocolate.

Little changes really can make a big difference.

6. AirTight Houses

These homes maximize insulation with triple glazed windows, detailed sealed walls and floors and heavy doors. Ensuring draughts do not travel through your living space means less heat is lost resulting in you not having to click on the heating as often.

Not only are you saving on your energy bill by retaining the warmth but you’re saving the environment by using less energy.

example of air-tight eco-friendly house

Air tightness is achieved using silicone, membrane and tapes that stop air from escaping. It is done by a professional after they test the home for air leakage however it can be incorporated into the design of a house if you’re working on a new build.

This is called a fabric first approach and includes insulation into the building plan of the home instead of it being added to wall cavities afterward.

7. Natural Light

If you’re wanting a home flooding with light, resembling more of a greenhouse than your average terrace this is for you.

With its floor to ceiling glass walls and south facing windows, this eco-home allows for sunlight to warm the house naturally, meaning there is less need for central heating systems.

House with lots of glass for natural light

Not only does it blur the line between the inside and out, it’s contemporary and modernized design is extremely attractive to both architects and buyers.

It really does bring your garden to the very foot of your house and in scenic areas will give you a picturesque panorama of impressive views. The extensive glass allows your home to collect heat from the sun and will retain it through the winter.

While it can get quite hot in summer in these houses, louvres are often installed to make sure you don’t get too warm.

See 50 sleek glass houses here.

8. Solar

This is the ideal house to take ideas from with its eco-friendly systems that will let you say goodbye to your conventional boiler and hello to solar powered climate control and fresh air ventilation.

It has winter and summer shadowing programmes so that it will maximize warmth in your home without making you sweat and controls the temperature through solar panels on rooftops and extensive windows.

House with solar panels

These houses may also come with a high lifter water pump which does not use fossil fuels the way other water pumps do, sending water into your home without being followed by a big carbon footprint. Learn more about solar panel cost here.

9. Living wall

Don’t have space for a back garden? Don’t worry – have one on the side of your house instead. These new designs allow you to grow an entire green space on your roof or side of your house.

While it provides great insulation for your home it will also reduce noise pollution and give your home a modernized and interesting appearance.

Unlike ivy, these walls are built through installation of packs of soil onto the wall and often come with a water delivery system. They reduce erosion to your brickwork and allow you to get green without having to water and mow a lawn every few days.

These walls are used mostly in urban environments to absorb carbon dioxide and improve the air quality of the area. In addition to this they absorb heat from the outside created by car fumes or solar rays and do not re-emit the high temperatures the way buildings do.

House with a living wall exterior

This design is also thought to reduce stress for their natural appearance and are mostly seen in airports or business offices in major cities.

While these elaborately designed homes may be just out of reach, there are plenty of ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint without moving to some remote part of the Swiss Alps and eating berries for the rest of your life.

Simple changes around the home can make a big impact on the environment and your pocket.

Just give it a bit of thought next time you’re choosing between a shower and bath or deciding whether to click on the thermostat or grab a cozy throw and a hot chocolate. Little changes really can make a big difference.

10. Green Roof 

While one green roof won’t save the world, millions can help big time. It’s not a terribly difficult eco feature to add. Here’s an example.

House with a green roof

See more green roof ideas here.

11. Heat Pump

Another way to reduce your use of traditional energy for heating and cooling is to install a heat pump. Here’s how it works.

illustration how a heat pump works aug14

This summer during our heat wave where temperatures soared above 35° Celsius I visited friends whose house was nice and cool. I asked “you have central air?”. They said, “no, heat pump”.

It was amazing how nice and chilled the house was. They save a bundle annually on heating and cooling costs. Learn more about heat pumps here.

12. Rain Collection System

A fairly easy way to conserve water that you can use for your garden (and green roof) is to collect rainwater. Check it out:

House with rain collection system and barrel

Discover 31 ways you can conserve water in and around your home.

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