Wednesday, February 10, 2010


It’s a deep, dark secret of mine that I one day hope to live in a house I built myself. Why is that deep and dark? Well, it’s no secret that I’m no architect, and I’ve been known to come up with some pretty out-there house designs, as I’ve been refining plans since the tenth grade. I’m also a bit of a space-cadet. I know what I like and that’s final. The only problem is it’s rarely what the rest of the world likes. Where I live will inevitably be a reflection of the things I’ve loved from my intercontinental travels. I will have to battle with resale values and inevitably leaving my house to somebody in my will when I die at the ripe old age of 100—but I can always dream green until then.

Whether building or up-fitting your home, green is always the way to go!

For the methods I’ll spotlight in today’s post, I will be working from the ground up.

Warm Foundation.
No matter the project, the foundation must come first. If planned from the get-go, you can incorporate radiant floor heating. I love this heating style for many reasons:
• it is a more efficient form of heating than baseboard, radiator, and circulated air heating methods. More efficient means less energy is needed to keep your home at the temperature you like it to be.
• it works without circulating air, eliminating many air-born toxins, making in hypoallergenic.
• it is a globally accepted law of physics: hot air rises. Heating the lowest point of your home helps to distribute heat evenly.

Concrete Floors and You.
Your foundation floor is concrete no matter what you do. If you’ve been a good little bunny and used radiant floor heating, the idea of leaving your floors unadorned seems a little less daunting. Polishing concrete floors can leave them with a beautiful finish similar to that of marble, but at a fraction of the price.
There are benefits to this method too:
• finishing your floors without a top level makes it hypoallergenic. There are no carpets to collect pet dander, or to stain, for that matter.
• no carpets means no replacement cost. Added floor coverings don’t last forever and typically need to be cycled every ten years. By honoring this method, you’ve reduced your home’s cost of upkeep for years to come!

Little Piggy’s Straw House.
We all know the famous story of the three little pigs, each with their houses of straw, sticks and bricks. Given the choice, I’d like to build on the first of the three!
The only place the famous little piggy went wrong is finishing. Straw bale houses would not last very long without finished walls. Straw is traditionally considered a waste material, and finding a use for waste is among the greenest things you can do. Little piggy would have found that his house was healthiest of all three if he’d only lime-plastered the walls!
Lime plastered walls facilitate a sort of air exchange. Fresh air outside travels in and the air inside your home travels out. Plastered straw bale walls function on a similar principle as your winter coat: it keeps you warm by insulating with a pocket of air around you. The air exchange keeps the air that travels into your home clean, without the use of an air purifier, and the natural fibers help regulate indoor humidity.

Realizing Natural Light.
Strategically design your home to get the most light out of day time hours.
Do a little bit of research to find out where you are with reference to the zodiac (the sun’s year long path through the sky.) Will large north-facing windows help cut down on your heating costs? It’s worth the investigation. The less you have to manually and intentionally harvest energy, the better—for both you, your pocket book, and the planet.

Flax for Rescued Wood.
If you’re like me, and think of a loft as a way to create rooms in an open-concept living area, we now have to talk about a green material for this new floor that you need to build. The answer is rescued wood. I love rescued wood because, for me, it stands for beauty and old world charm. They remind me of my little childhood town in Germany, where timber frames abound.
Rescued wood need not be an item that forces you to cringe, because it can be re-planed to achieve the even surface that may have warped over the years.
Hardwood cannot go unfinished for long as it will discolour and splinter as it continues to lose moisture. Artificial sealing agents are harsh and prevent the wood from doing what it naturally wants to do, so use flaxseed oil (also known as Linseed oil.) Linseed oil particles are naturally a hundredth of the size of the smallest crevices in a plank of wood, meaning it is able to permeate deep into your hardwood floors. Because the wood already naturally has something in it, filling up all its empty spaces, the wood will not absorb excess liquids. While spills still need to be cleaned, there is no need to worry that your unsealed floors have been ruined.
Also, linseed oil is anti-static, meaning that dust will not cling to, and collect on your beautiful green floors. Hypoallergenic and easy to clean.

Your home should be your calm and safe place. Consider adding a couple drops of an aromatic oil like lavender or juniper to your floor’s linseed oil treatment and you will be imparted with a lovely lingering scent, ready to calm you down whenever you come home, that’s a whole lot more natural than an air-freshener.

Raising the Bar on Roofs.
I am an avid fan of the concept of living off-grid. Setting up solar panels on your roof could make an impact on your carbon footprint. Store the energy you collect in batteries and insulate your roof well, so that your house holds onto the heating energy it does need. Even a cloudy day provides energy!

Green Gardens on Green Roofs.
This is a practice I fell in love with in Europe—converting roof space into a garden!
Keep a modest vegetable garden or grow your herbs! Part of being green is using the space you have to alleviate your load on the planet.
Earth is one of the greatest insulators, making this an excellent way to top off your very own green house!

No comments:

Post a Comment