Eco-friendly houses

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The fashion for eco-friendly architecture has long swept Europe and America, and now it has spread to Russia. Explore the most interesting eco-house projects from different countries and expert advice. Living in peace with nature starts small!

LEED certification for eco houses is like the USE for Russian schoolchildren: an infallible and comprehensive assessment system. This house in Oakland (USA), built by Onion Flats, is a real “excellent”: it has the highest, platinum grade. Everything is taken into account: the ecology of the site, energy saving technologies, the use of recycled building materials, the presence of an underground rainwater reservoir of 15,000 liters and even the drought resistance of the roof garden. In many countries, being green is beneficial: there are tax breaks for LEED-certified buildings.

The most affordable way to save on lighting and heating costs is to design a house with a large glazing area, orienting the building according to the movement of the sun. Alas, the method is not suitable for everyone: when you live in dense urban areas, wall-to-wall windows take away any hope of privacy. We have to invent: the architect Paul Ruff “folded” one of the walls in this house in Toronto from 475 strips of glass with a wavy surface. The interior is not visible from the street, and the window itself looks like water is streaming through it – and in fact, priceless moisture, mind you, is not consumed.

The best thing you can do for nature is not to touch anything at all. Australian architect Max Pritchard came up with an original way to preserve the ecosystem and at the same time beat the uncomfortable landscape: the site is divided in two by a ravine, along the bottom of which a stream flows. Pritchard built a four-pillar bridge house that almost floats in the air, without interfering with water, plants or animals. The building is extremely environmentally friendly: it supplies itself with energy, has a reservoir for rainwater, and ventilation is provided by the wind, which made it possible to abandon air conditioning.

Pierre Josselin, HBA (USA):

– Old demolition wood is suitable for various architectural details, furniture and even floors.

– Use recycled glass countertops. They are made by mixing glass chips with cement. The result is a durable and beautiful material.

– Bamboo is the champion in environmental friendliness among floor coverings: it is pleasant to the touch, durable and beautiful. Using it, you do not harm nature: bamboo will grow again very quickly, and on its own, without fertilizers, pesticides and watering.

– Even vinyl wallpapers are considered environmentally friendly materials, though not all.

– Read the labels carefully: many companies use up to 20% recycled raw materials, harmless paints and a paper base in their manufacture, thanks to which the wallpaper can be glued with ordinary water-based glue. No chemistry!

In Russia, eco-friendly houses are not very much in demand – largely due to low energy prices. But we also have the first “green” buildings – although so far these are not housing, but buildings-manifestos, demonstrating the possibilities of new technologies. For example, the pilot project “Active House” in the Moscow region, embodying three key principles: energy conservation, a healthy microclimate and the use of renewable energy sources. The peculiarity of the house is the abundance of daylight: most rooms have windows on at least two sides of the world, which increases the time of insolation. For our latitudes – very relevant.

Oddly enough, architecture is one of the main “culprits” of global warming. It provides half of the world's CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, and these emissions occur not only during the life of a building, but also during its construction and demolition. German company Studio Aisslinger decided to mitigate the damage and developed a finished Fincube home that only takes a couple of days to assemble. The shape of the house is similar to a mushroom: the small footprint allows it to be placed anywhere, even on a mountainside, and the minimum energy consumption makes the building economical. The main plus is mobility: the house can be disassembled into modules and assembled in a new place.

A proper eco-house should, firstly, consume as little energy as possible, and secondly, produce it itself. If it is possible to equalize the indicators of production and consumption, the house is called “passive”. But some go further and build “active” homes. For example, the project of the Danish architectural bureau AART, a mansion made of glass and slate “Home for Life”, produces even more energy than it needs. In 35 years, it will generate as much “extra” energy as it took to produce building materials for the building – and it will be in complete reckoning with nature! aart.dk

Evgeny Bondarev, Alt House:

– For central Russia, houses made of adobe (a mixture of straw, unbaked clay and lime) are suitable. Construction from it causes minimal harm to the environment, while it is inexpensive. Its characteristics are similar to wood, but non-combustible.

– Shredded paper or cardboard can be used to insulate the roof. Due to its porosity, this material retains heat well.

– Heating systems using pellet fuel are very promising. (Pellets are compressed granules of sawdust and shavings.) In terms of price, including delivery, such fuel is comparable to gas. It can also generate electricity by converting thermal energy into electrical current.

Inhabitants of the OS House in the US state of Wisconsin do not have to pay for heating, even in the harshest winters. The house, built by Johnsen Schmaling Architects, features ground source heat pumps. Their principle of operation is based on the use of the temperature difference underground and on the surface. (At a depth below six meters, the temperature does not drop below +10 ° C all year round.) In winter, the heat pump works like a refrigerator, only the other way around: it takes heat through the pipes installed in the ground (geothermal circuit) and gives it to the house. In summer, this system can be used for air conditioning – the heat from the house is removed underground. However, in the summer, the house is already cool – thanks to the light breeze from the nearby Lake Michigan. The mansion is well-ventilated thanks to large sliding windows, a ventilated facade and several patios.

Aleksey Morokhovets, Eco-houses Freedom:

– Replace the switches with motion sensors: the situation when you left the room and forgot to turn off the light will become impossible.

– Switch to energy-saving electrical appliances. No electric stoves! Cook on gas. Buy sockets with timers and adjust them so that the washing machine, for example, turns on only at night, when electricity is cheaper.

– Choose materials with high vapor permeability for construction and decoration: all kinds of fumes, odors arising from cooking etc., should be led out through the surface of walls, floors and ceilings. If the wall cladding and insulation are chosen correctly, the house “breathes” and there is no need to open the windows for ventilation, losing heat.

– An important aspect is the thermomass of the house. The higher it is, the better. For example, when the outside of the house is insulated with straw, and inside there are thick walls of stone and concrete. In winter, they are heated by heating devices and retain heat for a long time. In summer they keep cool.

Text: Marina Yushkevich, Ekaterina Wagner

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