Bulky solar panels? No way. Unsightly wind mills? A thing of the past. Today's trends in eco-conscious architecture are not only chic, but often times hard to discern from their non eco-conscious counterparts. Whether you're building from the ground up or looking to integrate just a few key touches, here's a list of suggestions that are bound to inspire (and make the neighbors jealous).
1. Insulation. Blue jeans are made for more than just wearing, in fact they can be a key element in your home's heating and cooling system. According to HGTV, if you replace standard fiberglass insulation with this alternative – which is crafted from denim manufacturer scraps – you can expect a lower energy bill, a quieter house and better air quality.
2. Roofing. Redoing your roof? Consider using shingles made from recycled materials like wood, rubber and even plastic. You'll not only be saving a tree, but ultimately you'll be diverting waste from your local landfill. As a bonus, neighbors will be totally floored when you tell them your new roof is actually made from old tires.
3. Windows. Fun fact: The direction your windows face can effect the efficiency of your home's heating and cooling system. If you reside in a climate known for chilly temps, you'll want to have smaller windows on the north side of your house and larger ones on the south side. If you live in a place known for being hot and humid, the opposite is true. Abide by these simple rules and you'll up the warmth and sunlight, while minimizing heat loss.
4. Flooring. While bamboo, recycled hardwood and linoleum have become go-tos for those looking to install eco-friendly flooring, the playing field is now expanding with floors made from materials like polished concrete, recycled glass tile and even cork.
5. Foundation. Starting from the ground up? You may want to consider being on the cutting-edge with a bermed (also known as earth-sheltered) home. These innovative structures look as if they've been built into the side of a hill. This is due to the fact that three sides of the home are covered in earth, while the southern wall is left exposed to allow in warmth and sunlight.
The end result is a home that literally blends in with the natural surroundings. It's also not as susceptible to outdoor temperature change. And according to Energy.gov, as a bonus a bermed home costs less to insure because the earth covering it serves as extra protection against extreme weather and natural disasters.
6. Plumbing. There are many small ways you can make your home more water efficient, but if you really want to be an H2O eco-warrior install a grey water recycling system. The term grey water refers to the drainage from baths, showers and washing machines. If properly treated, this water can then be reused to irrigate your lawn. You cut water waste while lowering your water bill.
7. Decking. There's nothing better than spending a sunny Saturday afternoon lounging on the back deck. Make sure though, your deck is constructed from sustainable materials. Where once there were few options, now there are several including: reclaimed lumber (aka the materials from someone else's front porch), lumber that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (translation: it's been harvested responsibly), composite decking (hello, recycled plastic and wood waste) and plastic lumber (it looks like wood even though it's made from recycled plastic).
8. Paints and Stains. Even little details like the color of your living room or the shade of your deck can have an impact on the environment. Many paints and stains contain VOC's (volatile organic compounds) which evaporate and pollute the surrounding air. Look for options with low VOC or those derived from natural substances.