Housing Options For Sustainable Living
As I look out my back picture window, I know that one of the most important elements of where I live will always be what’s outside that window. I see tall oak and aspen trees and hear their leaves shifting in the wind. I hear the sound of the waterfall, splashing over the river rocks into my pond, laden with water lilies. I proudly watch as the first sprouts shoot up in the garden, promising fresh vegetables in the coming weeks. Number one on my list of property “must-haves” is beauty.
Although not particularly sustainable when we bought it, we have improved our home’s “green quotient” each year – mowing less and planting more, buying less and growing more, using less energy and water. We have added more efficient appliances and equipment, improved insulation, painted with low-VOC paints, replaced old toilets to conserve water, and installed CFL lighting. The work continues. As we get older, though, will we stay here or look at green options in another type of living space?
At each stage of life, we are presented with choices about housing. What elements of sustainable living are important to you right now? Many innovative and fascinating alternatives to traditional living spaces are popping up – usually smaller in size and located in more densely-populated areas. If you could design your own environmentally-friendly dream space, what would it look like? Big or small? City or country? Here are some designs to get you dreaming!
Young Professionals/Generation Y, ages 25-30
According to Builder Magazine, this generation wants hip, urban and green. Numbering 70 million, this group will play a major part in demanding eco-friendly living spaces. They are choosing neighborhoods in urban settings, with easy access to local merchants- from farmers' markets to coffee houses and retail shops. They are usually close to bike paths and green spaces in the form of parks and lakes. They place an emphasis on green, smart design and community. Many living spaces are pet-friendly, so Fido is welcome, which is a big change from stricter rules of the past.
A great choice for this group would be something like the Denver Boutique Apartments, which offers 15 unique locations, each with a particular theme like “Prana,” meaning vital, life-sustaining energy, or “Red Fort,” a take-off on John Shors’ Beneath a Marble Sky.
Eager to own your own home? For those able to afford $15,000-$50,000, an interesting alternative housing option has surfaced in the form of tiny houses. If your parents or a friend have a spare piece of property, you can plop these little homes down, and pick them back up if you decide to move! You can squeeze all your necessities into 89-130 square feet, with room for 1-2 people to sleep in a loft. Plans sell for about $100 for do-it-yourselfers and the company builds it for around $15,000. Mobile tiny homes are built on a trailer with plans costing around $500 and built unitsaround $50,000. They also provide plans for small 2-3 bedroom homes like their model b53 at a cost of $695.
Mid-Professional/ Gen Y, ages 30-45
Many in this age group are doing well enough in a career to save up some money to buy a home or condo for the first time. If you’re planning to have children, location is a primary consideration, particularly because of school districting. While there is an urban boom happening, often the city schools haven’t kept pace with the schools in suburbia, presenting a quandary. Assuming private schools are out of the question, you’ve got a tough decision to make.
If you’re determined to live in the city, you might be looking for a place that offers conveniences of daily living, due to your extremely busy schedule. In downtown Chicago, you might choose a green-built apartment building with a view, a Fitness Club, and spaces to meet friends and hang out. You might want a place to store your bike or easy access to a car-sharing ride. The 215 West apartments might be just the place!
Another option is to build your own green dream home, integrating cradle-to-cradle lifecycle principles into the design. For example, these 13 buildings are designed to be disassembled, and their components reused. They are often modular, powered by renewable energy, and designed such that a permanent structure could house an endlessly transforming interior space by using components that could reconfigure spaces based on changing family situations. One of the most amazing examples of this concept is by Architect Gary Chang in Hong Kong, who designed a 344 sq ft space that changes into 24 different variations! Many of these new modular designs use pre-engineered components, a throwback to the days of the Sears kit homes. Bensonwood in New Hampshire is a cutting-edge builder who not only designs traditional timber-framed custom homes, but is now designing modular homes ranging from 800 to 4000 sq ft, using advanced technology and innovative techniques to maximize energy performance.
Baby Boomer/Empty Nester, ages 46-65
Tired of mowing the lawn and painting the house? Are you looking to downsize now that the kids are out of the house? Often baby boomers are looking not only for ways to reduce drudgery, but also to maintain a sense of community, and have easy access by walking or public transportation to a variety of places and activities. This often can mean a downsizing move from the suburbs to an energetic downtown scene, with denser housing- close to groceries, shops and entertainment. This living situation may be ideal whether you are working or considering retirement in the next few years, but want to lead a vibrant lifestyle, enjoy cultural activities and also make a difference in your new community. Another option is a special community designed with the environment and interaction with neighbors in mind, while still maintaining a level of privacy.
If this sounds good to you, you might consider one of these options:
Ross Chapin Architects in Washington State is a pioneer of the design of Pocket Neighborhoods; smartly-designed, smaller homes on smaller lots, which incorporate communal spaces to chat with neighbors, and community gardens to connect with the land. They designed the Third Street Cottages and seven other communities, which consist of eight detached, one bedroom plus loft cottages with a common area garden courtyard. Their latest community, Chico Beach, is located on Puget Sound, with great views of Mt. Rainier! This beachfront community offers seven 2- and 3-bedroom homes, and includes a common building and car charging station. Prices run around $350,000 for a 1500-1700 sq ft cottage. While you may think you’re sacrificing privacy by living in a very small, tightly-built space, each community is designed carefully to enhance both privacy and connectivity with fellow pocketeers.
Del Webb is known in 21 states in the U.S. for its active adult communities. One, Dunwoody Way at Del Webb Sweetgrass in Texas is designed for the young at heart, with fewer bedrooms and larger living spaces. They focus on maintaining intellectual sharpness with offerings of college courses and state-of-the-art computer centers while also encouraging a healthy lifestyle with classes in yoga, meditation and Pilates. Prices range upwards from $130,000, with 15 floor plans to choose from. The Del Webb communities are green built and focused on maximizing energy and water efficiency, and minimizing environmental impacts.
Designed as a “continuing care” retirement facility, the Mirabella in Portland, Oregon is situated in a dense urban environment in the trendy South Waterfront neighborhood. The neighborhood itself is unique in that it is striving to be a LEED-certified neighborhood, based on its incorporation of sustainable features such as walkability, public transportation usage, easy access to shops, and other smart growth features. Besides the typical energy-efficiency and water conservation measures, the Mirabella is seeking LEED-Platinum certification, which makes it one of the top eco-friendly buildings in the country!
Finally, for all ages and in all shapes and sizes, some unique and exciting designs are showcased here using innovative building techniques and materials. From bamboo to glass and steel (and even reused shipping containers), these are fantastic examples of modular homes, interesting cabins, kit homes, off-the-grid abodes and some small homes that were developed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The possibilities are limitless!
World Green Top News
- Testing a New Dynamic Solar Facade
- Joshua Tree Gets a New Desert Prefab
- Plugwise Eliminates Excess Energy Use
- Ahead of Schedule, An LED Bulb for us All
- Community Solar Programs Let Renters Share The Power
- Simple Green Harpoon House in Oregon
- Dad Was Right About Those Lights
- Gary Chang's Sliding Wall Apartment Is An Eco-Friendly 24 Rooms! (VIDEO)
- Who Wins in the Home Star Program? GridPoint, Big Box Retailers
- Seeking Existing Home Energy Efficiency
- Controversial Shipbreaking Methods In South Asia Are Cause for Alarm 23 May 2013 | 8:30 am
- Demonstration Gardens Encourage Healthier Living 23 May 2013 | 8:15 am
- Lilly Volunteer Shares Experience from South Africa 23 May 2013 | 8:00 am
- Driving Employee Engagement Through Better Program Management 23 May 2013 | 7:55 am
- Survey of Corporate Professionals Identifies Motivations and Benefits of Sustainability Reporting 23 May 2013 | 7:30 am