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7 Ideas for building the best Eco-Friendly Homes

It's important to take sustainability and energy efficiency into account when building a new house or upgrading your existing home. Eco-friendly house building is good not only for you but also for the environment, which is why it's important to work with green building contractors who understand how to build sustainable homes.

There are many ideas for making your house more eco-friendly, from building a house partially under the earth to making sure your home is made from recycled materials. Fortress Home has extensive experience in building eco-friendly houses in Chicago, so speak to them today and learn more: +773-770-8607 or [email protected]

What is an eco-house?

Eco-houses are not a single type of house but encompass a wide range of designs that focus on making as small an impact on the planet as possible. Some ideas that might be incorporated into eco-construction are:

  • Built using sustainable or recycled materials
  • Use less energy than a standard house
  • Make use of natural resources such as rainwater and thermal energy
  • Generates its own energy

All of these concepts will work together to produce a home with a reduced carbon footprint, both during construction and after you move in.

More good news for eco-friendly buildings is that in many areas incentives are offered for their construction, including reduced fees for building permits and rapid turnaround times for permit applications.


Build sustainably - green housing ideas

There are many different ways of building eco-friendly homes, some of which are highly ambitious, and are viable for the most determined eco house owners. But don't worry, there is a wide range of ideas that are open to everyone and will help you with building a green home on a budget.

Straightforward ideas for eco-friendly homes

1 - Prefab homes

A very popular and affordable technique used by many sustainable construction companies is prefab homes. Once considered dull and boring, this style of housing is growing in popularity and can offer some truly sustainable benefits.

  • Reduces waste - because the prefab units are manufactured in a factory waste can be reduced to an absolute minimum.
  • Energy efficiency - the prefab units can be mass-produced with energy-efficient materials incorporated into the basic structure of the building. And due to economies of scale high-quality insulation, solar panels, and low-energy appliances and lighting can be added at an affordable price.

Many prefab houses are now LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. LEED is the most popular rating system for green construction and rewards highly efficient, green construction, and can be used for both new buildings and re-fits.

2 - Tiny homes

By their very nature, tiny homes promote a more sustainable way of living. They use fewer materials in their construction and when complete, encourage residents to reconsider their spending on material goods, as storage space is limited. With less space to heat, cool, and light utility bills are also reduced, saving money in the long run. Tiny homes also have the added benefit of costing less to build due to their small size.

But the sustainable benefits of a tiny new house don't end there. Many of them are constructed using techniques to maximize the natural heating and cooling of the house or take advantage of sustainable and green materials, like bamboo.

3 - Sustainable, recycled, reclaimed materials

If you are building a new eco-friendly home you have a wide range of materials to choose from:

  • Bamboo grows rapidly, requiring little water, and is a very strong and beautiful building material.
  • Earth can be used to create walls, as in rammed earth houses, or to add extra insulation, depending on the style of house you're building.
  • Wood can be a sustainable material, as long as it's sourced from a well-managed forest, or even better, is reclaimed.
  • Tires or plastic bottles have been used in construction, often filled with earth, to provide sturdy, stable structures.
  • Cork is another fast-growing tree and can make wonderful sustainable floor tiles.
  • Recycled plastic can be used to make hard wearing carpets and PVC window frames.
  • Steel can be reclaimed and reused in new constructions and is a very strong structural framing material.
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Ambitious ideas for sustainable living

4 - Passive homes

Passive homes are designed to be as energy-efficient as possible, ideally being carbon neutral. There is a passive house building standard, which aims to reduce the ecological footprint of a building as much as possible resulting in buildings that use little or no external energy for cooling and heating.

A passive house uses a range of techniques to heat, cool, and power itself with a minimal carbon footprint. The techniques used will often depend on the climate and exact location of the house, to minimize energy use and carbon emissions.

These houses are usually oriented to make the most of natural sunlight for passive heating, and can also take advantage of cool air currents to keep the house ventilated and cool in summer. They reduce energy loss to a bare minimum through well-sealed and insulated walls, including air-tight construction techniques.

If they are in an area with a lot of natural sunlight, passive homes may use large triple-glazed windows (or even quadruple-glazed) to let in the light and naturally heat the house. Even the color of the exterior is designed to maximize the efficiency of the structure.

5 - Earthships

Earthships are the ultimate in eco-friendly houses made from upcycled and natural materials, avoiding the use of any new or non-sustainable materials. Traditionally they are made from old tires filled with earth and they may also use concrete beams, the only new material, but also a sustainable material.

Originally designed for the desert they make use of nature for heating, cooling, and water needs. They are designed to be 100% carbon neutral using passive home techniques as well as renewable energy like solar or wind power.


More than just a house they are a way of life, promoting off-the-grid living. They have been designed to be easily constructed by amateur builders and encourage a self-sufficient lifestyle with part of the design being a garden to feed the inhabitants.

6 - Rammed earth houses

One of the most sustainable materials you can use is earth and rammed earth houses make use of this to a wonderful extent. The natural colors of the soil can make for truly stunning designs, very much in keeping with the natural environment.

The technique used is the same as that used by the builders of the Great Wall of China and is very long-lasting and naturally insulated. While the actual materials (earth) are cheap the techniques to make them are complex and labor costs will be very high on a designer rammed earth home.

7 - Earth-sheltered houses

Earth-sheltered houses may remind you of Hobbit homes as they are usually built into hillsides, making the most of the natural insulation properties of the earth. These environmentally friendly homes are definitely designed for rural, not urban areas but if you have the right location they can be truly worth the effort.

They are constructed to make the most of the natural light with the living space usually a long series of rooms with south-facing windows. Because of this most earth-sheltered houses are long and thin and can be a very attractive eco-home option.

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Make your existing home more eco-friendly

If you're upgrading or remodeling your current house there are lots of things you can do to reduce your house's carbon footprint.

Insulation and windows

A great way to upgrade your house is to improve your current insulation by taking advantage of some of the super-efficient new insulation materials that are available.

Installing new double or triple-glazed windows will also improve the overall insulation of your home, reducing your energy bills and keeping you comfortable year-round.

New appliances and light bulbs

While we don't recommend getting rid of well-maintained appliances right away, as disposing of them has a major environmental impact, when the time comes to buy a new freezer or washing machine, make sure you chose energy-star-rated appliances.

Another quick way to reduce your energy bills and carbon footprint is to switch out traditional bulbs for the latest LED lights. Don't worry, the latest LED bulbs can give you any color or style of lighting you desire and even recreate the glow of candlelight.

Green roofs and living walls

A living wall or green roof can act as additional insulation and soundproofing for your home, as well as putting oxygen back into the air, with all those lovely plants. They also have the added benefit of looking really beautiful.

Most popular in cities where there isn't much green space, these features can also be great for your mental health, giving you a little glimpse of nature in the big city.


They can also improve the air quality and reduce the temperature in the immediate area while providing a habitat for local wildlife. What's not to love!

Manage your water use

Monitoring and reducing your use of water is a great way to reduce your environmental impact. You can do this in a variety of ways, including installing more efficient showerheads and dual flush toilets and using greywater, from your washing machine or shower to flush your toilets.

Rainwater collection is another technique for managing your water usage and the water collected can be used to water your garden or even clean your car.

Generate your own electricity

Energy generation is a great way to save money and make your home more eco-friendly. One of the most popular options is solar panels, which are becoming more and more affordable and effective as time goes on. Depending on the type of panels you buy, solar power can be used to heat water or generate electricity and you don't need to be in a very sunny location for them to be worthwhile.

Install a heat pump

A heat pump is a great way to heat your house, as it takes heat from the air outside, or the earth and circulates it around your house. This is a very low-carbon way to ensure your family is cozy and warm.

Despite their name, heat pumps can also be used to cool the air too, allowing you to ditch both your conventional boiler and air conditioning system at the same time.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most environmentally friendly home?

Probably the most environmentally friendly home you can build today is an Earthship. These houses are designed to be made from recycled and sustainable materials and be 100% self-sufficient in terms of energy and water, and possibly even food.

While Earthship living isn't for everyone if you're really interested in living a fully sustainable life they should be investigated with care.

What is an eco-friendly home?

Eco-friendly homes cover many different types of houses, from the fully sustainable passive house to the more affordable prefab home. One thing they have in common is that they are far more energy-efficient than traditional homes and often use sustainable, recycled, or reclaimed materials. All of which reduces their carbon footprint on this planet.

Eco-friendly homes might:

  • use renewable energy
  • generate their own energy
  • be carbon neutral
  • have a reduced carbon footprint
  • be made from sustainable or recycled materials
  • manage water in a sustainable fashion

How can I make my home eco-friendly?

There are many ideas for making your existing home more eco-friendly. These can be as small as using LED lightbulbs and as large as putting in a green roof or re-insulating the entire house. Solar panels are another great way to upgrade the energy efficiency of your home. Anything you do to make your house more eco-friendly should also help reduce your energy and heating bills, making it a win-win situation.

Eco house construction in Chicago

At Fortress Home we have been considering the environmental impact of our construction for many years and make sure all the buildings we erect meet or exceed the current standards. We have been using the latest insulation, heating, and cooling technologies to ensure all our buildings are as energy-efficient as possible. Talk to us today to find out more: +773-770-8607 or [email protected]

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