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  • The Future of Home Building for Energy Efficiency

At Ontario Energy Group Consumer Watch, we’ve examined many at-home innovations that Ontario residents are using to improve their energy efficiency. From home energy generation to smart property planning, there’s a million things you can do to lower your dependency on the grid.

Now we want to look further ahead, or rather further back as the case may be. Old and sometimes unusual construction techniques are being explored by construction firms all around the world that might provide energy-efficient alternative homes for the future.

Straw Bales Provide Better Insulation, Last Thousands of Years

straw-bale-homeEach year, millions of bales of hay are burned wastefully as they’re a byproduct of grain production. This is an innovation nearly 200 years old, began in prairie locations such as Nebraska where lumber was in short supply. However the practice goes as far back as the paleolithic era, and remains a popular home construction option in places such as Germany.

The insulation value of straw bales can be as high as R-30 to R-35. As a comparison, most home insulation from fiberglass is around R-12 to R-25. Straw bales properly dried and plastered are highly resistant to rot or fire, and well-constructed bales may last over a thousand years without change to it’s composition. As energy concerns become more and more prominent, this is one building technique that we may see facing a huge revival.

Plastic Bottles Provide Low-Cost Affordable Housing

soft-drink-bottle-housePlastic bottles take an estimated one million years to degrade if left in a landfill, making them one of humanity’s most prominent artifacts of waste. That’s why enterprising construction companies in Africa and around the world have turned to turning one of our greatest sources of waste into a solution that may fight homelessness around the world.

With the United States discarding over 129 million plastic bottles every day, it’s absolutely trivial to build a one-floor, spacious home with only 14,000 plastic bottles. With these resources, over 3.3 million homes could be built from one year of waste!

Plastic bottles are generally packed with sand to help provide structural support, while some may be left clear to add internal lighting through portable LEDs that fit inside the bottles themselves. The bottles are then stacked like bricks and sealed with cement.

In case this sounds like a ramshackle solution: these sand-filled bottles create a material twenty times stronger than bricks. These structures are also bulletproof, fireproof, and insulate against heat extremely easily, making them well suited for the typically sweltering African nations. Plastic bottle construction is also highly resistant to earthquakes. And while the technique may not catch on in the west for aesthetic reasons – the benefits speak for themselves.

Turn Your Roof Into A Green Paradise

green-manhattan

Used under CC – Alyson Hurt from Alexandria, Va., USA – Flickr

One of the ultimate ways to turn your house green is… to turn it green; literally. Turning your roof into a garden doesn’t just look good, it’s an incredibly simple and effective way to improve the thermal retention of your home while improving the air quality surrounding it.

The science of a green roof is fairly simple. Traditional roofing re-radiates heat either through heat absorption or through reflection, which makes the area surrounding a house seem hotter than it really should be. Vegetation absorbs this heat, as well as excess moisture from accumulating due to rainfall. These benefits and more have been known for centuries, and have been in use throughout Scandinavia, Germany, and even in Canada due to immigrants from the former two areas.

There are some considerations for making your roof into a Green Roof, however. Most modern homes aren’t not equipped to support this type of project due to weight considerations. As well, flat roofs will have to take advantage of an insulating sheet to prevent water and vegetation from damaging the structure of the home.

You also will have to decide if you want a roof that can take care of itself (extensive) or one that requires regular weeding and pruning (intensive), the latter requiring regular access to the roof. One small benefit is a roof garden is that it is the perfect place to grow home grown food.

Home grown solutions for energy efficiency are on the rise, and retrofitting our homes is one great way to start. But in the future, not too soon from now, we’ll be seeing a rise in new construction efforts and planning techniques that can help us achieve energy-neutral homes.

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