Do -It-Yourself and Design Becomes Paramount in Sustainable Buildings and Homes


Earlier this month, one Florida homebuilder made waves in the media for its announcement that it would build 148 “climate positive” homes in Cortez, Florida. The developer announced the first phase of the project would see the buildings designed to supply as much energy as they consume, while also having a net positive impact on the overall energy system. Each building would be equipped with solar and battery storage and would pursue LEED Platinum certification, with the ability to discharge to the grid when demand allows. The project’s second phase would see 720 rental units built in a similar design, enabling access to renters who previously had no way of accessing this kind of high-tech, sustainable lifestyle.

It is a sign of things to come, one hopes. Of a future where sustainable living is not just accessible to those who can afford such technologies and designs but to the general public, leading the way for an era of better, healthier living for all.

Home developers, property builders and private homeowners are increasingly opting to outfit their homes with sustainable technology and design, and the resulting boom is driving new levels of architectural and self-improvement innovation. Design, building and architectural companies worldwide are elbowing one another out of the way to get in on the action, and with the growing accessibility and dropping prices of such features, increasing numbers of people are looking to minimize their environmental impact  – in what once could only call a win win for the planet. More consumers are opting to forgo expensive overhauls of their kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms. Instead home owners are turning to do it yourself projects using off the shelf components and tools like the makita orbital sander to literally power through projects using minimal materials and in many cases upcycling what they already have.

Before we get stuck into the future of sustainability in housing, let’s just quickly redefine what the buzzword actually means. All too often, companies throw the word sustainability onto a product brochure and bang  – customers come running – without so much as a moment’s hesitation or inclination to actually check and see what is meant by ‘sustainable’. Greenwash is sadly becoming so common that it is deterring concerned individuals from investing in green infrastructure, due to the uncertainty as to whether the product is actually environmentally-friendly or not. Making a home truly sustainable involves more than planting a garden on the roof or throwing on a solar panel, it encompasses many facets including but not limited to building materials, energy sources, design, waste solutions and harmony with the surrounding environment. 

For a brilliant example of the future in sustainable home design, look no further than ‘The Mushroom Tower’, 2017’s winner of an innovative design competition staged by New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) as part of  MoMA PS1’s Young Architects Program. The winner – New York architect David Benjamin – entered into the competition an experimental new project experts say could change the future of environmental design. Made entirely of organic material made from cornstalks and mycelium (a material used previously only as packaging material) which resembles mushroom roots, the building’s brilliance lies not in its choice of material or design, but rather the way in which it is built. Or should I say grown? Through channeling the “biological algorithm” of mushroom roots, the architect more or less ‘grew’ the building in just over five days – a feat that astounded engineers and architects and is sure to leave a lasting imprint on the industry, as others scramble to figure out how such a process could be replicated with other, more durable materials. Not only is the mushroom tower 100 per cent compostable but every material from the project comes from within a 150 mile radius, proving that what we have seen up until now in green building design is fundamentally inadequate in terms of life cycle consideration.

Another project worth a mention is the Waste House – a sustainable construction project installed at the UK’s University of Brighton. Built almost 100 per cent from discarded waste, including 20,000 toothbrushes, 4,000 DVD cases, 2,000 floppy discs, and 2,000 used carpet tiles, the building is an example to all of how we can better dispose of waste and rethink the way we consume.

Biophyllic design will soon (hopefully) become the norm in home design, with air-purifying plants, such as peace lilies, planted on every available surface of the home to absorb pollution in the air. The eco home of the future will also offer features that keep heat loss to a minimum, given that so many homes lose heat and energy through drafts which is highly inefficient.  We also may see flat pack living rooms, robots that can garden and grow our food and more DIY energy possibilities than we had ever thought possible. 

So enough about houses with elevators, AI-controlled refrigerators, smart security screens and digital art projectors, what people really want to see and are making happen is the future in sustainable design, so that we can begin seeing a happier, healthier planet than that in which we are currently living.

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