dark mode light mode Search

Sustainable Construction and Living

Green area in a mixed-use high-rise building

With constant discussion around climate change and how society can adopt better practices, the idea of sustainable living has been gaining considerable traction as of late. Aside from running off and living in the woods, it would be nearly impossible for the average person to leave no carbon footprint. However, by living in a more environmentally- friendly manner, you can help reduce pollution and also save yourself money in the long run. If you’re unfamiliar with sustainable living design and practices, here are some key points to help get you started!

Sustainable Building Materials

If you are interested in building a home and wish to be more eco-friendly, one of the best ways is by using more sustainable building materials. While most homes are built from wood, this is neither the cheapest nor the greenest building material. Since alternative building materials are still a relatively new concept, it is critical that you check with your local permit office before deciding on a specific type. Despite being just as safe, or even safer, than conventional methods, most zoning codes do not allow for unusual building materials. If in doubt, a simple call will be enough to answer all your questions! Here are a few green options to consider:

Straw Bale

Easily the most popular alternative building material, straw bale is an excellent option for those looking to create an eco-friendly home. Not surprisingly, this medium is both highly affordable and easy to find, making it one of the simplest choices for building a house. Bear in mind you will still need wood to act as a frame in most cases, but the quantity needed is significantly lower compared to a traditionally-built home. Although it may seem counterintuitive, straw bale homes are also incredibly fire resistant. With the special way the bales are stacked, they create a near air-tight seal, making it almost impossible for a fire to keep burning. They also are exceptionally well-insulated, meaning they are a wonderful choice for cold climates. The only real cons are potential issues with zoning, pests, and labor. Straw bale is especially prone to infestations, which are always a headache to deal with; however, as long as you are proactive, this shouldn’t become a significant concern.

 House built with sustainable materials


As one of the oldest building materials in the world, cob has stood the test of time. While this medium may have fallen out of vogue in the past hundred years, it is still a completely viable option. Cob is essentially made from a mixture of clay, sand, and straw; once dried, it makes a sturdy structure. For those thinking that a single rainy day will be enough to wash it all away, that is simply not the case; some of the oldest standing homes in the world are made of cob! However, it does take quite a bit of time to dry, especially if you live in a wet climate. Cob is especially well-suited to hot, dry locales as it is both very insulating and fire resistant. The biggest concern is zoning. Like straw bale, cob is an uncommon option for a home, and very few zoning offices allow it without an architect’s design. While this doesn’t mean it’s impossible to build with, it does mean you should expect to spend more on the design phase than average.

Green Design

If you live in a more conventional home, there are still plenty of ways to live green. One of the easiest is by purchasing solar panels! These not only provide renewable energy, but they also help cut energy costs significantly. For those living in sunny climates, solar panels can be an excellent investment; however, you should always check with your municipality to make sure they are allowed. Another eco-friendly design option is a water-catchment system. These collect and reuse rainwater and come in handy in areas prone to drought. Some cities and states will even offer subsidies for both solar panels and water-catchment systems as a way to promote more sustainable practices. It’s always worth a bit of research to see what offers you may be able to get!

Living on Less

The simplest way to live sustainably is to live on less. By consuming less in your everyday life, you save money and produce significantly less waste. For those who can afford to spend more on higher quality goods, such as furniture and clothing, you’ll find that the items you purchase will have much longer lifespans. This isn’t possible for everyone, however, and no one should feel pressured to spend large sums of money on eco-friendly goods. Smaller lifestyle changes, like using ride-shares or a charter van service rather than purchasing a new car, can also make a huge difference!