The World’s Most Impressive Sustainable Homes

Sustainable home principles can be practiced in any home. You can install solar panels, put a few rain barrels in your backyard, even install a greywater system. Any steps you take toward a more sustainable home are impressive. But some sustainable homes are simply amazing, integrating natural beauty, efficiency, and great design. These homes use sustainable building materials and smart climate control and water use — some even use materials that would otherwise go to waste. Check out some of the most impressive sustainable homes in the world.

Sharma Springs

The Ibuku team in Bali is making incredible dwellings out of bamboo. This material is strong, flexible, and resilient — and it grows back very quickly. This team is exploring the potential of bamboo, and they started with Sharma springs, a jungle fantasy escape for the Sharma family.

This six level home with four bedrooms is built almost entirely out of bamboo. It features open air living spaces and selected areas that enclose for air conditioning. Even many of the furnishings inside are made from bamboo and other natural, local materials. The home even has gardens based on permaculture design principles.

The Brighton Waste House

The Waste House at the University of Brighton proves that one man’s trash is another man’s…house. In this university project, garbage was used to construct an entire house on the University of Brighton’s Grand Parade campus. Organizers insist that there’s no such thing as waste, just stuff in the wrong place.

Led by architects and senior lecturer Duncan Baker-Brown, students designed, built, and worked on the house. 90% of the materials used in making the home are waste products including hardly used toothbrushes, denim jeans, bike inner tubes, DVD cases and floppy discs, and used carpet tiles. Many of the materials were sourced from household and construction sites.

The wood for the Waste House is all recycled. New materials used include performance windows and skylights as well as new electrical wiring and plumbing.

Ultimately, the structure is highly energy efficient and an excellent example of what can be done with discarded waste. The Waste House’s energy efficiency can be in large part attributed to its rammed earth wall of chalk waste and clay, which is thick and has natural thermal properties.

The Fall House

When you think of a sustainable home, you’re probably imagining a compact home in the middle of nowhere. But the Fall House designed by Fougeron Architecture looks significantly different. It’s a two story home with nearly 4,000 square feet, extensive windows, and the best part: an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean from the coastline of California’s Big Sur.

This is a decidedly luxury sustainable home with excellent technology and smart design. To protect the home from wind and water spray from the Pacific, one of the home’s facades is copper, which will weather slowly and protects the home from unwanted solar heat. The other facade is glass, offering an excellent view and extensive natural lighting.

The use of copper in the home is strategic, as it is highly durable and noncombustable. This is an excellent feature for a home located in a severe fire zone.

Other home material technologies include efficient windows and underfloor radiant hydronic heating. Insulation is taken care of with formaldehyde free denim. The home’s windows automatically open to draw in cool air and work with an exhaust transfer grill to remove hot air.

Outside, the Fall House uses a greywater system to supplement water usage. There is also a section of green roof for insulation and drought resistant native vegetation planted around the home.

Earthships

Earthships are radically sustainable buildings offering ingenious sustainable design and construction. They are designed to meet and exceed existing building codes and can be built in any part of the world. Using sustainable design principles, they offer sustainable food production, electricity, potable water, and contained sewage treatment.

Earthships are built using natural and recycled materials. A principle of the sustainable home is to use indigenous materials that naturally occur in the local area.

Using thermal and solar heating and cooling, Earthships are able to maintain comfortable temperatures in any climate. They also produce their own electricity using a photovoltaic and wind power system that uses batteries for multiple sources of automated power.

Earthships are remarkably water friendly, using contained sewage treatment to maximize water efficiency. Water is harvested from the sky and used four times. It is heated from the sun, or uses biodiesel or natural gas. Toilets are flushed with greywater. Earthship wetlands can also be used to plant fresh produce.

ZEB Pilot House

With the power to generate nearly three times the amount of electricity it needs, you might say that the ZEB Pilot House is the ultimate solar dream home. This house is an experimental house created by international architecture firm Snøhetta and Norway’s Research Center on Zero Emission Buildings.

Most impressive about the ZEB Pilot House is its solar array. There is a 1,614 sq ft photovoltaic array as well as a 172 sq ft solar thermal panel array. The roof is sloped southeast to maximize solar power production. The array is expected to produce 19,200 kWh each year, but the home’s electricity needs for the year are just 7,272 kWh. The designers suggest that this excess power could be used beyond the home in applications such as an electric vehicle.

The ZEB Pilot House uses the sun for more than solar electricity, however. Windows are strategically placed for solar heat gain, and the home uses a heat exchanger that expels and redirects excess heat to warm tap water, a swimming pool, and the shower.

Yes, that’s right: this sustainable home has a swimming pool. It also has a sauna heated by firewood, another luxury item that is appreciated, but often unexpected in sustainable homes. Another intriguing feature is the vegetable garden and fruit trees for food production, rounding out some of the ZEB Pilot House’s most impressive sustainable features.

In addition to its significant solar power and smart sun use, the ZEB Pilot House has a rainwater collection system. This system provides the water used in the garden as well as the toilet.

Row on 25th

Houston is known for its sprawling developments and McMansions with central air, but the Row on 25th demonstrates that you can be sustainable even in a city that typically has 90 percent humidity and triple digit temperatures all summer long.

In the Row on 25th project, two story, 1,900 square feet townhomes were built with simplicity, privacy, and efficiency in mind. Energy efficiency is a significant concern, so the roof profiles were lined in a radiant barrier house wrap that repels heat. Heat reflecting shingles were also installed, and air conditioning ducts were placed lower in the home rather than the attic where most heat gain happens.

Tighthouse

Located in New York City, the Tighthouse is an existing century old rowhouse that was retrofitted for energy efficiency. The home meets the Passive House Institute certification standard, and it is the first to be located in New York City.

The Tighthouse earned its name for its nearly air tight quality. And the warmth inside is retained and reused with an efficient heat recovery ventilation system that provides fresh air. Ultimately, the home uses 90 percent less heating energy and 75 percent less energy use than the standard home.

As an extensive renovation of an existing home, the project included building a third floor, roof terrace, art studio, and a brand new rear facade. The Tighthouse also uses photovoltaic panels for power and has remote monitoring enabled for automated energy efficiency.

Pop Up House

It sounds difficult to build a sustainable home on your own, and to built it in just four days with an electric screwdriver pushes the idea to practical insanity. But the Pop Up House promises — and delivers — on this possibility. Plus, it is lightweight and inexpensive, and boasts 1,614 sq ft of living space.

The Pop Up House makes all of this possible with a modular, easy to ship collection of materials. The structure is simple and easy to build — and all it takes is wood screws secured with an electric screwdriver. No prior construction experience is necessary to assemble this home.

The home is highly efficient with excellent insulation and does not require heating in mild climates. It even has a comfortable living space with a kitchen, dining, and living room area plus three bedrooms, two bathrooms, an office, and a terrace.