When someone decides they want to live in the greenest home possible, one that adds the least to the climate change issue and the most to sustainability on the planet Earth, there is no simple answer as to which type that would be. It depends on many factors, dominated by personal needs and desires and by the local environment.
The least impact would be if everyone could live like nomads or cave men and not build anything at all. In today’s society, that is frowned upon and known as being a homeless person. It may be the natural way animals live, but it is not considered acceptable for humans. Even our animals have homes built for them.
Compromises and a combination of personal ideals and realistic goals are the answers. The home should become a place that is so difficult to leave that years can be spent there perfecting its attributes that the inhabitants love and that are best for the ecosystem. Trees and plants must have time to grow to do their best job of sheltering the building and shading it. Soil needs years of added compost and nutrients to turn it into a medium which can organically feed the owners and possibly their animals. Neighbors and friends need time to establish relationships for the healthy sense of community. Different systems such as rain water harvesting and solar and wind energy storage must be tested and tweaked until they are most efficient for the setting and climate.
Some prioritize building their homes themselves from as many materials as possible that they can glean from their land. A log cabin first comes to mind like the pioneers built from cutting down trees. There is no longer enough forested land left for the millions of people in the United States to take this route. Most people today must work at jobs during daylight hours and cannot put the man-hours into the back breaking labor to cut their own logs and stack them into walls. Log cabins can be built by professional log home builders up to mansion sizes these days, but many are treated with chemicals to prevent pest infiltration and are not that healthy for humans or the earth. The materials are usually not site-harvested and are shipped long distances. Some are called green because they are built with energy efficiency in mind as in Energy Star Laurel View Log Homes.
Another centuries old building practice which gleans from the local site is mud built or adobe homes. Beautiful artistic cob homes are a popular modern version because of their fairy tale appearance, how inexpensive they are to build, and because they are the type that most healthy people can do more easily themselves. They also take many man-hours and are not yet popular with building code enforcers in the Greenville area. One was built by Jacques Abelman, Nik Bertulis and Aysha Massel in Seneca, South Carolina years ago. There are groups which offer cob workshops in the area such as Natural Building Workshop in Asheville, Kleiwerks International, and Natural Builders of the Upstate. Two of the top cob building experts in the nation are in North Carolina, Mike McDonough and Greg Allen.
Both Earthbag or earthship-like homes use less embodied energy which is that of producing building materials, transporting them distances, and installing them. Filling bags with local soil and stacking them in an earthbag home is easy except for the time and energy for tamping them down to compress the soil. It is a cheap way to build, and can be a do-it-yourself project. Earthship homes, like Michael Smith originated in New Mexico, are made of tires filled with rammed earth and use passive solar energy and rain catchment systems for low impact, energy efficient homes. To view some, visit Earthaven ecovillage which also has several other alternative building examples. Contact Andrew Hickman, email@example.com, to find out when his next home tour will be of the earthship inspired home he and his wife Rosemary Kimble built near Athens, Georgia.
Some combination building types can be traditional timber and frame filled with straw bale or even a hemp house. For other examples, research on the Internet and through meetings with local groups, and read books like Building Green by Clark Snell and Tim Callahan from Asheville, North Carolina for more ideas, pros and cons of each, and pictures of what some look like. This will help in determining which fits personal green building goals the best.
If none of the alternative green building types are appealing, then search online for green builders in Greenville, SC. Several offer traditional building choices that are termed green and are more energy efficient, least resource intensive, and affordable while offering the most green features possible. Watch the video of the greenest home in America