From the cutting edge to the tried and true
As more and more people realize the importance of their choices around their homes, we believe the technologies discussed below will become standard practice. We may even be forced into using these strategies, as our access to energy and resources declines. Either way, Living Structures is committed to working with “early adopters” – those who are ahead of the curve, and are ready to adopt dramatic changes to tread more lightly on the earth.
These are some of the technologies we are excited about implementing now – most are based on ancient principles, but have been updated with modern science and technology.
- Passive Solar Heating: Somewhere between locating a house with lots of southern exposure and installing a lot of solar panels on the roof of a house is an overlooked set of technologies called passive solar heating. Using a variety of strategies, including solar collectors, thermal mass, and a variety of elegant solutions such as the Trombe wall, the sun’s energy can be harvested to heat water as well as living spaces, using low-tech materials and little or no energy inputs.
- Active Solar: This is what most people probably think of when we talk about solar energy. Today’s photovoltaics, or solar panels, are much more efficient, durable, and economical than ever. They can also be tied into the electrical grid so that any surplus energy you produce on site at your home gets sold back to the electric utility. It’s possible to run your electric meter backward, and have the electric company pay you to generate power for the grid!
- Rainwater Collection and Irrigation:Large metro areas such as Boston put a huge drain on the region’s water resources. Paradoxically, in urban areas where so much of the land is covered by buildings and concrete, potentially useful rain water often drains straight down into the sewers, into our rivers, and out to sea, before it ever gets a chance to soak into some soil. Meanwhile, enormous amounts of energy are expended, piping water from sometimes hundreds of miles away, to feed the enormous need of cities for fresh water. Small, on-site rainwater collection systems can break this cycle, at least for as much rain as falls on your house! Rainwater can be easily and safely collected and used to water yards and gardens, and for many household uses as well.
- Greywater recycling: Much of the water that runs down our sinks and bathtubs doesn’t need to go to a treatment plant many miles away. Greywater (any water that flows out of the house, except from the toilet) usually only needs a gentle treatment to remove the soaps and impurities, before it can be safely used in the backyard or garden. It is even possible to create greywater treatment ponds that are beautiful additions to the landscaping of your home.
- Composting toilets:Here’s a lesson that humans have known about for a long, long time: Don’t poop in the drinking water! But amazingly, that is what our modern water and sewer system is designed for. It would create much less stress on our municipal sewer systems and treatment plants if solid waste were treated on site and kept away from the drinking water! If you heard about composting toilets a long time ago and were unimpressed by the stories, you might want to take another look. Today’s composting toilets are much more efficient, reliable, and completely inoffensive to the senses.
- Landscaping for Food Production: Gardening is good for the soul. But making the most out of your space by growing as much of your own food as possible also reduces your expenses, and reduces the need for the fossil fuels that transport your food from a faraway farmer to your kitchen table. Food production can also be integrated into the heating and ventilation systems of your home, through attached greenhouses and green roofs.
- Work at home: One of the most important green features of your home is probably its location. If you live within walking distance of your workplace and shopping, recreation, and civic areas, you reduce your need to drive. One way to do this is to create home-based work and production facilities. We are experienced in creating home offices and work spaces that allow for the comfort and productivity, both for the home worker, and the rest of the family as well.
Please contact us if you are interested in incorporating any of these technologies into your home renovation project. We would love to speak with you about them!