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Is there an ideal type of eco friendly/sustainable housing?  RSS feed

 
Shelly Stern
Posts: 23
Location: Minnesota
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I'm in the process of learning all about permaculture so i'm still undecided where I want to live, what type of housing I want, what type of power source, etc. I am finding there are a lot more types of housing than I thought, and i'm getting overwhelmed by all the options. Is there an ideal one, or one that most people tend to be happier with? Is there a pros and cons list of all the types of housing?
 
R Scott
Posts: 3358
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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the answer is the real estate truism: location, Location, LOCATION!!!

There are high level principles that apply universally, but materials and design goals are extremely local. Your best choice may be different than your next door neighbor, and will definitely be different than mine halfway across the country.
 
allen lumley
pollinator
Posts: 4154
Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
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books fungi hugelkultur solar wofati woodworking
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Shelly Stern / 'The Permies Cloud' : There is an old saying ''to a man with a hammer all problems are nails.'' While some locations are Worse than others for specific locations,
like straw bales underground, most can be adapted to work with your location,again a passive solar house should never be site-ed at the bottom of a north facing hill !

It all relates to your skill set, I would think that 90% of the people looking at Cob Houses and at Rocket Stoves had ought to be Potters! My best guess is these people feel
'married to the Grid' and don't think there is anything in Permaculture to appeal to them. This is a group of people with a specific Skill Set and knowledge base that should
attract them but it doesn't. There is a lesson in there somewhere!

Find your local and regional Permaculture and C.S.A. Supported groups, locally we have Sustainable living groups who offer introductory classes on every thing from stoves
to swinging a scythe, to herb gardens, and building rock walls, or have speaker panels on these and other topics, expand your group of friends, consider helping at your local
habitat for humanity projects, anything to grow Your Skill Sets, I promise you, none of It will be wasted ! For the Good of The Craft ! Big AL

Late note, consider this an answer to your other thread, and keep coming back ! A.L.
 
Amedean Messan
pollinator
Posts: 928
Location: Melbourne FL, USA - Pine and Palmetto Flatland, Sandy and Acidic
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Hey Shelly, I think the best place to start out is a credible intentional community around your area. This requires less commitment and allows you more time to reflect on what you would desire most with the addition to exposure to an atmosphere relevant to your pursuits.
 
Shelly Stern
Posts: 23
Location: Minnesota
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Thanks for the replies, everyone! Unfortunately with my job I am unable to do anything in my spare time, I work 84 hours a week and live at my job for 6 weeks at a time then I am only home for about 7 or 8 days, so the only free time I have is pretty much spent researching online. I would love to be able to join a community or volunteer on a farm but my free time is so limited even when I'm home, rushing to see family and friends and get 6 weeks worth of errands done in a few days. I was hoping to do all my research online while I am working so that when I have enough money to quit my job, I could just dive in and do it then.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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Hey Shelley:

Good question!

I think you first need to figure out WHERE you want to live and then look to the climate for inspiration. Climate will dictate whether you need a home sheltered with thermal mass (cold climates and hot climates) or one where thermal mass would make things UNBEARABLE (like the humid tropics).

Once you identify WHERE - you can identify HOW and WITH WHAT. Look to historic vernacular architecture as this will be very telling both in the methods and materials used. These folks didn't have electricity - how did they stay warm/cool? They were ingenious! They also had to provide for their water needs - how did they do it? Cisterns, wells, canals? And they used locally sourced materials.

Here in the desert, we have an abundance of clay appropriate for adobe brick, earthbag or rammed earth construction. This style of building also gives us that thermal mass we need to protect us from extreme heat. I want to DEFLECT the summer sun as much as possible so I will have few, if any, windows on the western exposure. I may also build an earth berm on the western exposure to further limit the heat gain from late afternoon sun and put a logdepole pergola between it and the house and grow shade vines on it. In MN where you live - all of that might be counterproductive - you most likely want to harvest sun - not run for cover from it! Ditto you will probably have different water harvesting methods, energy needs (more money spent on heating so a glass house on the south side to harvest heat passively, something like a kachelofen/rocket mass heater/kang system), etc.

"Long and thoughtful observation" is always the first step. Thank goodness for the internet - you don't even have to leave home to do much of your research!

Keep us posted on your project - it sounds interesting.
 
Shelly Stern
Posts: 23
Location: Minnesota
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Thanks Jennifer! Yeah deciding where to live will have to be my first step, and that's a hard one, because I hate cold but I dont know if I want to be away from my family and friends. Ideally I would like to have a travelling home (an RV was my first choice but that's got more roadblocks than I care to deal with). I would love to have 2 houses, one in MN and another in the south, but I wouldn't be able to take care of both of them year round so that is probably a bad idea too. I think this is my biggest issue is location. After that the rest should be a piece of cake!
 
Angelika Maier
pollinator
Posts: 1014
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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As said elsewhere, the most sustainable house is using a house which already exists. Building a new one is never sustainable unless you only use local materials (including the wiring for the electricity the plumbing) and transport everything on a donkeys back. And it still would use land were otherwise nature is.
Strawbale mudbrick et al is always only half of the story, because half of the house is what you build in it these days. If you are honest there is no such thing as sustainable wiring, plumbing, even recycled materials must be transported painted.... And all this while there are houses sitting empty.
 
Seth Wetmore
Posts: 158
Location: Some where in the universe in space and time.
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So many options, so many choices, so little time.
Sit back and dream.........
Open up your mind.......
indulge your fantasy.......
WOW the land of make believe. Yeay I love the land of make believe, come on and join me for a train ride.

Where do you see yourself?
When do you see yourself there?
How did you get there?
What did it cost you?
With whom are you residing?
Why are you residing there?
Who helped you get there?

Keep it simple write down simple answers to these questions.
then write down ten goals for each answer to get you to the answer. You will arrive in reality with the sollution and your dream as a reality. Have a great day, never stop dreaming. Take action. No one is going to do it for you. But many people can help you achieve your dream.
 
Sean Rauch
Posts: 136
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba
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I know at least one person here who will probably disagree with me but I truly believe to best way to build a sustainable home is primarily going to be based on what you can comfortably afford, reasonably understand and most importantly be happy and comfortable in. You don't want to build something that seems to fit someone else's ideal of "Green" and then wish you had never done it later.

One really key point is whatever you do find ways to get some practical an preferably hands on help from someone who has done it before. Trying to reinvent the wheel for yourself can be a huge waste and waste isn't exactly green.
 
Brian Knight
Posts: 554
Location: Asheville NC
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Some good advice for such a broad topic. I have to put my vote in for one key area of detail; energy use. An ideal sustainable dwelling will have extremely low monthly energy use and wood or biomass certainly is included in this.

Monthly energy use is usually the biggest source of a home's environmental footprint. I feel that any new or rebuilt dwelling should put this characteristic to the top of their list of importance.

This philosophy tends to clash with "most sustainable is existing". This statement is only true some of the time and involves millions of difficult variables. Every situation is different of course but often times it makes more sense to start over than rebuild or reuse a house that will poison the environment (and possibly inhabitants) for decades or centuries into the future. Its very difficult to make an existing home as energy efficient as a new one and when you add up the life cycle costs and monthly energy costs of the options its easy for the new building to come out ahead.

Impacts of building materials tend to matter less than the monthly energy costs of dirty energy. There are far too many variables to simply say "existing is better". There is also a strong argument for existing, apartment living in the city as having the most sustainable dwelling and lifestyle.
 
Angelika Maier
pollinator
Posts: 1014
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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Retrofit an existing home. If you must build build small, less material less energy less upkeep. Use Swiss or German (there are sure other equally or better standards) building codes for insulation. Don't build were you rely on a car. And the rest: it depends on your climate materials available etc. there is no one size fits all best.
 
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