Alternative Homes — Are They Right For You?

You’ve always prided yourself on contributing as much as you can to preserving the Earth, but how can you know which alternative home is right for you?

There are nearly as many different kinds of homes as there are people. However, there are two main categories to consider: how they’re made and how they function.

Some homes are special because of the materials chosen for their construction. Timber frame homes, for example, are built with very large pieces of wood or full logs that are fit together using traditional methods. Unlike “stick-built” homes where the lumber is hidden behind drywall or plaster, timber frame homes expose the wood beams and present the structure as art. Generally, this method of building uses less wood than a similar structure built with 2 x 4s. They also tend to have a higher R-value and are often clean air homes due to the natural materials.

Another alternative material for house construction is straw bales. Readily available in Ontario and inexpensive, straw bales are made of waste from grain crops. Homes made with straw bales may also have timber framing or the bales may be structural. The bales themselves are pinned into place and then coated with plaster or cement on the interior and exterior. Many straw bale houses are very inexpensive to build as owners often do much of the work themselves. And, as you can image, the R-value for a 23” thick wall is quite high—about R-5. Straw bale homes are also often considered clean air homes as the plaster allows the house to “breathe” and vent excess moisture.

How homes function is the other consideration to alternative homes. Net-zero homes are becoming increasingly popular and may indeed become the new norm. A net-zero home produces at least as much renewable energy as it uses. This type of home has achieved that balance between generating its own power and having as low a consumption rate as possible. Net-zero homes can be traditionally built with added insulation and special conservation features, or they can be timber frame, straw bale or something else.

There are so many different options for people who want something unique and special for their home. Whether you want to try a different way of building or concentrate on options for energy generation or conservation, there is something out there that will work for you.

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