Architecture

Green living: Top 10 sustainable houses

Green living: Top 10 sustainab...
Gizmag picks the ten most innovative sustainable houses we've come across so far
Gizmag picks the ten most innovative sustainable houses we've come across so far
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The Waste House is a sustainable construction project installed at the UK's University of Brighton (Photo: BBM)
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The Waste House is a sustainable construction project installed at the UK's University of Brighton (Photo: BBM)
As its name suggests, Waste House is built almost exclusively from discarded waste (Photo: BBM)
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As its name suggests, Waste House is built almost exclusively from discarded waste (Photo: BBM)
Around 90 percent of the materials that went into making the Waste House derive from household and construction waste (Photo: BBM)
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Around 90 percent of the materials that went into making the Waste House derive from household and construction waste (Photo: BBM)
Waste House features 20,000 toothbrushes, 4,000 DVD cases, 2,000 floppy discs, and 2,000 used carpet tiles, used to clad the home's facade (Photo: BBM)
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Waste House features 20,000 toothbrushes, 4,000 DVD cases, 2,000 floppy discs, and 2,000 used carpet tiles, used to clad the home's facade (Photo: BBM)
Waste House is a remarkable achievement and proves the organizer's mantra that "there is no such thing as waste, just stuff in the wrong place" (Photo: BBM)
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Waste House is a remarkable achievement and proves the organizer's mantra that "there is no such thing as waste, just stuff in the wrong place" (Photo: BBM)
The ZEB Pilot House, by international architecture outfit Snøhetta is a remarkable experimental home (Image: Eve)
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The ZEB Pilot House, by international architecture outfit Snøhetta is a remarkable experimental home (Image: Eve)
Thanks to incredible efficiency and ample solar panels, ZEB Pilot House is said to generate almost three times the amount of electricity it requires (Image: Eve)
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Thanks to incredible efficiency and ample solar panels, ZEB Pilot House is said to generate almost three times the amount of electricity it requires (Image: Eve)
In order to achieve this performance, the ZEB Pilot House features the proverbial kitchen sink of sustainable technology (Image: Eve)
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In order to achieve this performance, the ZEB Pilot House features the proverbial kitchen sink of sustainable technology (Image: Eve)
ZEB Pilot House features a large photovoltaic array, rainwater collection system, solar thermal panels, and an efficient heat exchanger (Photo: Snøhetta)
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ZEB Pilot House features a large photovoltaic array, rainwater collection system, solar thermal panels, and an efficient heat exchanger (Photo: Snøhetta)
The performance of ZEB Pilot House is currently being monitored to make sure the claims of energy-efficiency are justified (Photo: Snøhetta)
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The performance of ZEB Pilot House is currently being monitored to make sure the claims of energy-efficiency are justified (Photo: Snøhetta)
The Pop-Up House, by French architecture firm Multipod (Photo: Elisabeth Montagnier)
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The Pop-Up House, by French architecture firm Multipod (Photo: Elisabeth Montagnier)
The firm likens the construction process of Pop-Up House to building with Lego (Photo: Elisabeth Montagnier)
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The firm likens the construction process of Pop-Up House to building with Lego (Photo: Elisabeth Montagnier)
The Pop-Up House is a prototype prefabricated home that Multipod aims to bring to market for around €30,000 (roughly US$41,000) (Photo: Elisabeth Montagnier)
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The Pop-Up House is a prototype prefabricated home that Multipod aims to bring to market for around €30,000 (roughly US$41,000) (Photo: Elisabeth Montagnier)
Thanks to its excellent insulation and near-airtight thermal envelope, no heating is required for the Pop-Up House (Photo: Elisabeth Montagnier)
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Thanks to its excellent insulation and near-airtight thermal envelope, no heating is required for the Pop-Up House (Photo: Elisabeth Montagnier)
Pop-Up House meets the very exacting Passivhaus energy standard (Photo: Elisabeth Montagnier)
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Pop-Up House meets the very exacting Passivhaus energy standard (Photo: Elisabeth Montagnier)
Vietnam's Vo Trong Nghia Architects has been tinkering away at the issue of providing its poorer countrymen with a cheap, home - the result is the S House (Photo: Hiroyuki Oki)
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Vietnam's Vo Trong Nghia Architects has been tinkering away at the issue of providing its poorer countrymen with a cheap, home - the result is the S House (Photo: Hiroyuki Oki)
S-House is a US$4,000 dwelling (Photo: Hiroyuki Oki)
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S-House is a US$4,000 dwelling (Photo: Hiroyuki Oki)
S-House is part-built using local easily-obtained materials like Palm leaf thatching and bamboo (Photo: Hiroyuki Oki)
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S-House is part-built using local easily-obtained materials like Palm leaf thatching and bamboo (Photo: Hiroyuki Oki)
The interior of the S House is very simple and measures just 30 sq m (322 sq ft) (Photo: Hiroyuki Oki)
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The interior of the S House is very simple and measures just 30 sq m (322 sq ft) (Photo: Hiroyuki Oki)
The S-House (Photo: Hiroyuki Oki)
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The S-House (Photo: Hiroyuki Oki)
San Francisco's Fougeron Architecture recently designed and built a particularly beautiful luxury house, called Fall House (Photo: Joe Fletcher Photography)
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San Francisco's Fougeron Architecture recently designed and built a particularly beautiful luxury house, called Fall House (Photo: Joe Fletcher Photography)
The copper also offers Fall House a degree of fire-protection due to its non-combustibility, according to Fougeron Architecture (Photo: Joe Fletcher Photography)
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The copper also offers Fall House a degree of fire-protection due to its non-combustibility, according to Fougeron Architecture (Photo: Joe Fletcher Photography)
Fall House is located on California's Big Sur coastline (Photo: Joe Fletcher Photography)
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Fall House is located on California's Big Sur coastline (Photo: Joe Fletcher Photography)
The Fall House sports a copper facade that will weather and patina over time (Photo: Joe Fletcher Photography)
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The Fall House sports a copper facade that will weather and patina over time (Photo: Joe Fletcher Photography)
Fall House also boasts some environmentally-friendly features, including a grey water recycling system (Photo: Joe Fletcher Photography)
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Fall House also boasts some environmentally-friendly features, including a grey water recycling system (Photo: Joe Fletcher Photography)
Tighthouse is said to be the first certified Passive House in New York City (Photo: Hai Zhang)
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Tighthouse is said to be the first certified Passive House in New York City (Photo: Hai Zhang)
Tighthouse, by Architectural design firm Fabrica718 (Photo: Hai Zhang)
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Tighthouse, by Architectural design firm Fabrica718 (Photo: Hai Zhang)
Sustainable technology installed in Tighthouse includes two solar thermal panels for hot water needs, and solar PV panels (Photo: Hai Zhang)
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Sustainable technology installed in Tighthouse includes two solar thermal panels for hot water needs, and solar PV panels (Photo: Hai Zhang)
Tighthouse, by Architectural design firm Fabrica718 (Photo: Hai Zhang)
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Tighthouse, by Architectural design firm Fabrica718 (Photo: Hai Zhang)
Tighthouse is said to be the first certified Passive House in New York City (Photo: Hai Zhang)
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Tighthouse is said to be the first certified Passive House in New York City (Photo: Hai Zhang)
Vietnamese firm H&P Architects has produced a prototype home that will eventually be mass-sold to poorer Vietnamese people, called Blooming Bamboo (Photo: Doan Thanh Ha)
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Vietnamese firm H&P Architects has produced a prototype home that will eventually be mass-sold to poorer Vietnamese people, called Blooming Bamboo (Photo: Doan Thanh Ha)
Blooming Bamboo is built around a central frame constructed from bamboo that is clad using locally-sourced materials including bamboo, fiberboard, and coconut leaves (Photo: Doan Thanh Ha)
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Blooming Bamboo is built around a central frame constructed from bamboo that is clad using locally-sourced materials including bamboo, fiberboard, and coconut leaves (Photo: Doan Thanh Ha)
Blooming Bamboo is expected to be produced at a cost of just US$2,500 (Photo: Doan Thanh Ha)
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Blooming Bamboo is expected to be produced at a cost of just US$2,500 (Photo: Doan Thanh Ha)
Blooming Bamboo measures 44 sq m (473 sq ft)(Photo: Doan Thanh Ha)
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Blooming Bamboo measures 44 sq m (473 sq ft)(Photo: Doan Thanh Ha)
Blooming Bamboo is placed on stilts and designed to withstand floods of up to 1.5 m (5 ft) in depth (Photo: Doan Thanh Ha)
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Blooming Bamboo is placed on stilts and designed to withstand floods of up to 1.5 m (5 ft) in depth (Photo: Doan Thanh Ha)
The Slip House, by Carl Turner Architects offers a template for affordable sustainable family homes in the UK (Photo: Carl Turner Architects)
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The Slip House, by Carl Turner Architects offers a template for affordable sustainable family homes in the UK (Photo: Carl Turner Architects)
The Slip House is slotted between a row of terraced houses in London, the property also rests on a brownfield site (Photo: Carl Turner Architects)
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The Slip House is slotted between a row of terraced houses in London, the property also rests on a brownfield site (Photo: Carl Turner Architects)
The Slip House features a rainwater harvesting tank, solar panels, mechanical ventilation, triple glazing, and a high level of insulation p(Photo: Carl Turner Architects)
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The Slip House features a rainwater harvesting tank, solar panels, mechanical ventilation, triple glazing, and a high level of insulation p(Photo: Carl Turner Architects)
Interior shot of the Slip House (Photo: Carl Turner Architects)
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Interior shot of the Slip House (Photo: Carl Turner Architects)
Carl Turner Architects is using the Slip House as a prototype for in-house research (Photo: Carl Turner Architects)
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Carl Turner Architects is using the Slip House as a prototype for in-house research (Photo: Carl Turner Architects)
Students from Australia's University of Wollongong took a typical Australian "fibro house," and retrofitted it with sustainable technology and design, to become the Illawarra Flame
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Students from Australia's University of Wollongong took a typical Australian "fibro house," and retrofitted it with sustainable technology and design, to become the Illawarra Flame
Illawarra Flame involved a lengthy renovation process
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Illawarra Flame involved a lengthy renovation process
Illawarra Flame includes a roof-based 9.4-KW solar panel system, rainwater harvesting and grey-water recycling system
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Illawarra Flame includes a roof-based 9.4-KW solar panel system, rainwater harvesting and grey-water recycling system
A building management system that offers fine control over, and information concerning, all electrical appliances and stored energy in Illawarra Flame
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A building management system that offers fine control over, and information concerning, all electrical appliances and stored energy in Illawarra Flame
The experimental Illawarra Flame home
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The experimental Illawarra Flame home
Renowned French designer and architect Philippe Starck recently teamed-up with Slovenian prefab firm Riko to produce P.A.T.H. (Photo: Starck with Riko)
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Renowned French designer and architect Philippe Starck recently teamed-up with Slovenian prefab firm Riko to produce P.A.T.H. (Photo: Starck with Riko)
P.A.T.H. stands for Prefabricated Accessible Technological Homes (Photo: Starck with Riko)
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P.A.T.H. stands for Prefabricated Accessible Technological Homes (Photo: Starck with Riko)
In addition to several shapes and sizes P.A.T.H homes can sport an all glass outer shell, a combination of wood and glass shell, or fully-wooden shell (Photo: Starck with Riko)
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In addition to several shapes and sizes P.A.T.H homes can sport an all glass outer shell, a combination of wood and glass shell, or fully-wooden shell (Photo: Starck with Riko)
P.A.T.H. homes cost around €2,500 – €4,500 per sq m (US$3,166 – $5,700 per sq m), depending on the various options chosen (Photo: Starck with Riko)
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P.A.T.H. homes cost around €2,500 – €4,500 per sq m (US$3,166 – $5,700 per sq m), depending on the various options chosen (Photo: Starck with Riko)
P.A.T.H. stands for Prefabricated Accessible Technological Homes (Photo: Starck with Riko)
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P.A.T.H. stands for Prefabricated Accessible Technological Homes (Photo: Starck with Riko)
Gizmag picks the ten most innovative sustainable houses we've come across so far
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Gizmag picks the ten most innovative sustainable houses we've come across so far
View gallery - 51 images

The cost of a house can be counted in dollars, but the construction and running of a house takes a toll on the environment that's harder to measure. Increasing numbers of people are looking to minimize both environmental impact and financial outlay by outfitting their homes with sustainable technology, and the resulting boom in sustainable building is driving new levels of architectural innovation. With this in mind, Gizmag highlights ten remarkable sustainable houses.

The term sustainable is thrown about quite a bit these days, but there's more to it than adding some solar panels to the roof of an inefficient building and calling it a day. True sustainability is made up of many facets, from building materials to the use of renewable energy sources to design that strives for efficiency and harmony with the surrounding environment. We think the following selections meet many of these criteria.

Waste House

Waste House is a remarkable achievement and proves the organizer's mantra that "there is no such thing as waste, just stuff in the wrong place" (Photo: BBM)
Waste House is a remarkable achievement and proves the organizer's mantra that "there is no such thing as waste, just stuff in the wrong place" (Photo: BBM)

The Waste House is a sustainable construction project installed at the UK's University of Brighton. As its name suggests, the prototype home is built almost exclusively from discarded waste.

Around 90 percent of the materials that went into making the Waste House derive from household and construction waste, including 20,000 toothbrushes, 4,000 DVD cases, 2,000 floppy discs, and 2,000 used carpet tiles, used to clad the home's facade. While nobody actually lives in it at present, the building is a remarkable achievement and proves the organizer's mantra that "there is no such thing as waste, just stuff in the wrong place."

S House

The S-House (Photo: Hiroyuki Oki)
The S-House (Photo: Hiroyuki Oki)

Vietnam's Vo Trong Nghia Architects has been tinkering away at the issue of providing practical, sustainable, and most importantly, cheap, homes. The result is the S House, a US$4,000 dwelling part-built using local, easily-obtained materials, including Palm leaf thatching and bamboo.

The interior of the S House is very basic and measures just 30 sq m (322 sq ft), with one large interior space. The building is prefabricated and can be disassembled into multiple small pieces for easy transport by local builders. Vo Trong Nghia Architects is still working on the design of the S House but the eventual plan is to mass market it.

Fall House

Fall House also boasts some environmentally-friendly features, including a grey water recycling system (Photo: Joe Fletcher Photography)
Fall House also boasts some environmentally-friendly features, including a grey water recycling system (Photo: Joe Fletcher Photography)

San Francisco's Fougeron Architecture recently designed and built a particularly beautiful luxury house that's guaranteed to make the neighbors see green. Located on California's Big Sur coastline, the Fall House sports a copper facade that will weather and patina over time, as it comes into contact with the sea air. The copper is also designed to offer a degree of fire-protection.

In addition to its enviable looks and views, the two-story Fall House features energy-efficient windows and its open design naturally encourages stack ventilation, automatically opening windows help reduce the need for air-conditioning. A graywater recycling system is also installed.

ZEB Pilot House

In order to achieve this performance, the ZEB Pilot House features the proverbial kitchen sink of sustainable technology (Image: Eve)
In order to achieve this performance, the ZEB Pilot House features the proverbial kitchen sink of sustainable technology (Image: Eve)

The ZEB Pilot House, by international architecture outfit Snøhetta is a remarkable experimental home that makes an even more remarkable claim: thanks to incredible efficiency and ample solar panels, it's said to generate almost three times the amount of electricity it requires – leaving plenty of surplus juice for charging an EV, for example.

In order to achieve this performance, the ZEB Pilot House features the proverbial kitchen sink of sustainable technology, including a large photovoltaic array, rainwater collection system, solar thermal panels, and an efficient heat exchanger. It doesn't hurt that the home is easy on the eyes, too. The ZEB Pilot House's performance is currently being monitored to make sure the claims of energy-efficiency are justified.

Pop-Up House

Pop-Up House meets the very exacting Passivhaus energy standard (Photo: Elisabeth Montagnier)
Pop-Up House meets the very exacting Passivhaus energy standard (Photo: Elisabeth Montagnier)

Whatever kind of home you live in, the chances are it took longer to build than the Pop-Up House, by French architecture firm Multipod, which was erected by a team of builders in just four days with no more tools than a screwdriver. The firm likens the construction process to building with Lego.

The Pop-Up House is a prototype prefabricated home that Multipod aims to bring to market for around €30,000 (roughly US$41,000). Thanks to its excellent insulation and near-airtight thermal envelope, no heating is required for the home in its location in Southern France, and it meets the very exacting Passivhaus energy standard.

Tighthouse

Tighthouse is said to be the first certified Passive House in New York City (Photo: Hai Zhang)
Tighthouse is said to be the first certified Passive House in New York City (Photo: Hai Zhang)

Said to be the first certified Passive House in New York City, Tighthouse represents an impressive energy-efficient renovation of an existing row house that's over a hundred years old.

Architectural design firm Fabrica718 added a new rear facade, an additional story, a roof terrace, and an art studio to the house. Sustainable technology installed includes two solar thermal panels for hot water needs, and solar PV panels, which reduce grid-based electricity requirements. As the home is almost air-tight, a highly-efficient heat recovery ventilation system (HRV) is always running to provide plenty of fresh air.

Blooming Bamboo

Blooming Bamboo is placed on stilts and designed to withstand floods of up to 1.5 m (5 ft) in depth (Photo: Doan Thanh Ha)
Blooming Bamboo is placed on stilts and designed to withstand floods of up to 1.5 m (5 ft) in depth (Photo: Doan Thanh Ha)

Like Vo Trong Nghia Architects, Vietnamese firm H&P Architects has also produced a prototype home that will eventually be mass-sold to Vietnamese people on a low income. However, this particular home is also flood-proof. The Blooming Bamboo house is placed on stilts and designed to withstand floods of up to 1.5 m (5 ft) in depth, though H&P Architects hopes to increase this to 3 m (10 ft).

The 44 sq m (473 sq ft) home is built around a central frame constructed from bamboo that is clad using locally-sourced materials including bamboo, fiberboard, and coconut leaves. The homes are expected to be produced at a cost of just US$2,500.

Slip House

The Slip House, by Carl Turner Architects offers a template for affordable sustainable family homes in the UK (Photo: Carl Turner Architects)
The Slip House, by Carl Turner Architects offers a template for affordable sustainable family homes in the UK (Photo: Carl Turner Architects)

The Slip House, by Carl Turner Architects, offers a potential template for affordable, sustainable family homes in the UK. Slotted between a row of terraced houses in London, the residence also rests on a brownfield site, formerly used for industrial or commercial purposes. Its unusual form consists of three slipped orthogonal box shapes.

The Slip House features a rainwater harvesting tank, solar panels, mechanical ventilation, triple glazing, and a high level of insulation – all of which saves up to 1092.73 kg (1.2 ton) of CO2 per year, according to the designers. Carl Turner Architects is using the home as a prototype for in-house research, hoping to refine its ideas for producing affordable and sustainable family homes.

Illawarra Flame

The experimental Illawarra Flame home
The experimental Illawarra Flame home

Students from Australia's University of Wollongong took a typical Australian "fibro house," and retrofitted it with enough sustainable technology to make the notoriously energy-hungry style of home into a net-zero house. The Illawarra Flame house project involved a lengthy renovation process, including transforming a bedroom into a living space, and the installation of prefabricated pods which contain amenities including laundry room and bathroom.

Sustainable additions include a roof-based 9.4-KW solar panel system, rainwater harvesting and gray-water recycling systems, energy-efficient LED lighting, and a building management system that offers fine control over, and information concerning, all electrical appliances and stored energy.

P.A.T.H.

P.A.T.H. stands for Prefabricated Accessible Technological Homes (Photo: Starck with Riko)
P.A.T.H. stands for Prefabricated Accessible Technological Homes (Photo: Starck with Riko)

Renowned French designer and architect Philippe Starck recently teamed-up with Slovenian prefab firm Riko to bring out a new line of high-end prefab houses called Prefabricated Accessible Technological Homes (or P.A.T.H.).

In addition to multiple shapes and sizes P.A.T.H homes can sport an all glass outer shell, a combination of wood and glass shell, or fully-wooden shell. Optional sustainable tech includes a roof-based solar array, roof-based wind turbine, and a rainwater collection and filtration system.

That completes our pick of innovative sustainable houses, You can check out each one in the gallery. If you think we've missed any particularly noteworthy picks, or if you have any thoughts on the sustainable building movement in general, please do let us know in the comments below.

View gallery - 51 images
4 comments
lwesson
I think that putting up solar electric gathering panels on my 1920's house and calling it a day, is fine for me.
The elegance, the warm charm of my 1920's house puts these weird shapes, these boxes to shame. In a hundred years such houses will likely not be putting up Century Marker Plaques, and will likely have been torn down as hazardous eye sores. The maintenance alone will cost a bundle.
What is it about the so called Modern Design that forces human beings into clinical like boxes? If this is the future, I will put on my shades because the future is not all that bright, and I do not want to see it.
jaxx003
Gizmag is my favorite website and I look forward to receiving it every day. On the topic of sustainability, however, you need to get up to speed. The China/US agreement and the success of German Energiewende have set the stage for directly confronting the IPCC dire warnings on climate change. Energy conservation in existing homes and in design criteria should take center stage in the near future, and climate resilience would be a good second priority. Whether the renewables transition takes the form of privatized production as in Germany, or net-zero performance as already mandated for 2020 in California, conservation will logically outweigh everything else. For that reason I would also encourage you to identify designs whose performance is not dependent on Mediterranean or tropical climates. The rest of the world needs Gizmag-style inspiration for the millions of new buildings which will be built before mitigation will begin to have an effect.
steve02
As a environment scientist, I agree with Gizmag that the term “sustainable” is thrown about quite a bit these days.
However, sustainable criteria were established several years ago by reputable environmentalists.
RiseHomes
Every industry needs the eye-catching version to usher in the more practical version. Tesla is a prime example of that. I work for Rise, a portal for sustainable housing development that is aiming to deliver sustainable info and products in a way that is accessible to a larger group of people that want to learn about it.
If you like sustainable design, check out the rise lookbook for more practical variations https://www.myrise.house/lookbook