I’ve lived in a lot of different houses throughout my life – a brick duplex in a former workers subdivision in an old mill town, a travel trailer with a large living room added onto it, drafty 150-year-old farmhouses, and concrete block homes with no insulation and single pane windows.
I’ve lived in Craftsman bungalows, sunny homes, shady homes, a home hanging off a cliff overlooking a verdant valley, a huge apartment complex, first floor, third floor, in town, in the country, on a river. Through all those experiences, I have gained lots of knowledge about house design and my personal preferences. I am still designing the perfect home, even though I live in a very efficient passive solar house with solar hot water and unbeatable mountain views. It’s not ideal yet, though.
Balancing the benefits of an ideal green home
I wanted to start this paragraph with ‘At the top of my list is…’, but I see there is not one feature that is more important than any other. Is locale bigger than efficiency? Does the ability to grow food trump locale? Sometimes we have to compromise and give something up in order to get something else, but everything combined would make this ideal.
I am going to assume this home is in northern New Mexico, which is where I live now. Different regions and climates would dictate different window orientations, plantings, heating systems and so on. There is no one-size-fits-all house, but building here is not too unlike building in northern New England. Prevailing winds are a little different, but I could have comfortably moved my post and beam saltbox in New Hampshire to Taos, New Mexico without a lot of adjustment.
Green homes and ideal structure for my climate
Let’s start with structure. A strawbale or cob passivhaus would cut bills to almost nothing. Super insulation, a tight envelope and highly efficient doors and windows prevent hot and cold air transfer from indoors to out. South facing windows allow passive solar gain to heat the thermal mass of the walls and floors. Renewable energy (solar, wind and/or geothermal) would generate all the power the house needs resulting in net zero energy use. I’d catch rain water and filter it for use inside. Grey water would be directed back outside to water the gardens.
I have not decided between strawbale and cob. I love both. I could build either one myself. Maybe I could combine the two with super insulating strawbale for exterior walls and high thermal mass cob for interior walls. This is still on the drawing board.
What are the rooms in my ideal green home like?
The kitchen would be on the southeast corner for sunny mornings. The bedroom would be on the northeast corner for the same reason. The area to the west would be a living room and office. If I have a partner, there will be a second bedroom/office. The overall size of the home would also depend on how many occupants, but it would not need to be over 1000 sq ft for two of us. I do not want a tiny house.
There would be minimal window glazing on the west side to keep summer heat outside. Shade trees would help cool the area, too.
There would be outdoor living areas on the north and south sides of the house. I’d like a summer kitchen outside to avoid heating up the house. The more time I can spend outside, the happier I am, too!
The house and the land
I would be enough land to grow my own food, raise some chickens and maybe some goats. I’d have a root cellar for storing fall crops and a pantry for canned goods. A greenhouse would be planted with cool weather crops for winter harvesting and fresh eating.
Native plantings on the rest of the land would provide flowers for the soul. Aside from my needs, this would create biodiversity, food and habitat.
A dog or two, some peace and a loving relationship would round out my house and land to make it perfect.
What does your ideal home look like?