Unique Energy Efficient Home Construction

Yurt interior
Interior yurt structure is beautiful and efficient.

Due to the demand for greater energy efficient homes, many home builders are including cost-saving energy efficient features. These include adding large amounts of insulation, sealing windows and doors so that no air can come through the seams and installing Energy Star rated appliances and equipment. There are more creative ways of being energy efficient if you want a truly sustainable home. the first step is to decide on what kind of home you build. Some non-traditional houses are incredibly energy efficient, such as homes built into a hillside.

Unique Construction Options

When retrofitting an existing structure to increase energy efficiency, insulation, passive solar, and maybe a geothermal heat pump are the way to go. If you're undertaking new construction, consider a different type of home, one that's unique homes and more energy efficient than a traditional American home.

Earth Sheltered Homes

Earth sheltering means building the home into a hillside or cliff so that several sides of the home are inside the Earth, as well as perhaps, the roof. A thick layer of soil has extremely good insulating properties, keeping the heat you produce in your home inside, or in hot climates, keeping the heat produced by the sun out of the house.

This style of home is a unique option for eliminating or reducing heating and cooling costs. If you struggle with the idea of heating your new house, consider building this type of structure, which requires very little climate control. A downside to this creative home design is that air quality can be low inside the house for the same reason that heat and cool air stay inside; the air doesn't escape through the walls and roof. If you decide to build this type of energy-efficient home, you'll need to work in plenty of high-quality ventilation.

Homes with Passive and Active Solar

Both passive and active solar are good ways to make a home more energy efficient. A passive solar home design requires less energy to heat and cool, while active solar means using sun panels to generate electricity in order to run things in your home, whether it's a computer, water heater, or electric heat source. While solar panels to create electricity can be used for any home style, designing your home to be energy efficient by using passive solar is still fairly unique and requires specialized skills.

Straw Bale Homes

Straw walls

Straw bale construction includes either making a home from stacking bales of straw (not hay) on top of one another, or constructing the walls and filling them with straw as insulation. This method is a unique way to create a home that uses little heat and cooling simply because of the high insulation value of straw. While straw is a cheap building material, the large volume of straw required and its vulnerability to water and moisture damage have prevented this method from becoming a mainstream building choice.


Small homes are the most energy-efficient ones, and making a yurt into your home is one way to ensure that your new dwelling stays small. An octagonal or circular structure, a yurt is basically a tent on a supporting structure. However, a yurt can have insulation between the inner walls and the outer shell, making it efficient in even cold climates. The ceiling must be low in order for the structure to be sound, making this small home easy to heat. With a little sun paneling for solar power, yurts can easily stay off the grid.

Famous Examples

As more and more people develop an interest for sustainable living, an increasing number of energy-efficient homes are built. Check out a few famous ones for additional inspiration before either building or remodeling your dream home.

Bill Gate's Earth Sheltered Home

Bill Gates's house in Medina, Washington is built into the hillside to increase its energy efficiency. This house is an example of an earth-sheltered home, where the soil acts as a kind of insulator on several sides of the house. While his abode is a stunning 66,000 square feet, it is very energy efficient compared to other homes of that size since it is built into and sheltered by earth.

Solar Umbrella House

The Solar Umbrella House in Venice, California is an example of both passive and active solar gain. The extensive amount of glass siding virtually eliminates the need for lights during the day. A large solar canopy protects the house too much solar gain as the California sun beats down; in addition, the canopy shades the home, reducing the amount of air conditioning needed. The canopy is also covered with solar panels that provide 95 percent of the home's electricity. Solar powered hot water heaters provide another form of energy efficiency to the home.

One of the reasons why the Solar Umbrella House is so interesting is because it is not an entirely new structure. The architect owners built it as an addition to their 650 square foot bungalow.

Choosing Efficient Construction or Retrofitting

Making a unique home that's energy efficient doesn't have to mean starting from scratch. Begin with an energy audit from a licensed professional in your area, and then decide what steps you can take to make your home energy efficient or if you want to start a new building project. Either way, it will cost some money up front, but one of the reasons to go energy efficient is to save money on a month to month basis, which these unique homes certainly do.

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Unique Energy Efficient Home Construction