green house

This article was sent to us by one of our favorite home inspectors.  if you like the article and/or need a home inspector, contact us (CLICK HERE) and we will put you in touch with him.  The article has some interesting and innovative ideas for building a “Green” home.

As the world heats up, so does the discussion surrounding “green building.”  Builders are looking at ways to create homes that use no fossil fuels–zero-carbon homes–and thus produce no greenhouse gasses.  Zero net-energy homes are constructed in a way that allows the home to generate the energy it uses.  New construction methods, as well as innovative products are helping builders move towards these goals.

A new technology from Japan is attempting to turn traditional solar panel technology upside down–or at least spherical.  Previously, solar panels have relied on a direct interface with the sun to absorb light and heat.  Because they need to be pointed directly at the sun, they are able to operate at peak efficiency for only a few hours each day.  The Japanese company Kyosemi has created a spherical solar cell that can absorb light from any direction, including light reflected off other surfaces.  Each cell relies on a matrix of tiny, spherical solar cells all working to absorb sunlight at any angle.  The product is much smaller and more efficient than solar panels and may eventually be used to power products both large and small–possibly even cell phones.

As water-scarcity looms large in different parts of the world, interest in reusing “gray water” is also a focus for homeowners.  Gray water is a term referring to water that is not drinkable, but can be used for doing laundry, dish-washing and watering landscaping.  By diverting drainpipes into collection tanks, homeowners can combine storm run-off and their own gray water. The water in the collection tank is filtered and can then be re-used for a variety of purposes inside and outside the home.

When it comes to creating a home’s outer shell, it has been tried–literally.  A homeowner in Puerto Rico built a home by the sea using naturally-occurring sea shells that covered the landscape.  Today, the Terreform One company is using the same concept to develop a building block made out of a different type of naturally-occurring and plentiful material–mushrooms.  Mycellum is a type of mushroom with tendrils that grow into a thick, entangle mat.  Terreform One has used the strength and fast-growing nature of this fungi to create building blocks by growing the mushrooms within recycled aluminum frames.  The prototypes combine the mushrooms with a mixture of oak pellet fuel, wheat bran, gypsum, and hydrogen peroxide to produce a material with structural properties appropriate for construction material.

In addition to being environmentally friendly–the bio-blocks require no extra energy to produce–the blocks may actually contribute to cleaner air quality.  Fungi is know to assist in the breakdown of toxic organic material.

And finally, what better way to stop worrying about a dirty floor than to start off with one–a floor created out of dirt?  If dirt is impacted, and allowed to dry and harden, it can be coated with beeswax and linseed oil for a very environmentally-friendly flooring material.  In a sealed, tinted state, a dirt floor can actually resemble concrete, while feeling softer underfoot.  Natural earth is compacted with straw or other fibers and stabilized with various natural oils.  A dirt floor can be installed over most sub-flooring, even over wood floors–and will cost about $1 per square foot.  To finish a dirt floor, it is typically dried with linseed oil followed by an application of hemp oil.  A final coat of hard oil and wax impregnation are used for shine and weather proofing.

These floors can have a downside, however, Over time they may crack and buckle, and not matter what–they won’t work well in any room that contains moisture–kitchens, bathrooms, and well, mud rooms!