Pearl, my beloved labradoodle, dutifully watched me build myself a new house for the past three years. So when I was almost finished, I decided to build her a place of her own. A standard model just wouldn't do, though, so I went a little overboard. After creating the design with CAD software, I added a solar hot-water radiant-heating system and made a green roof that retains rainwater, creates oxygen, and improves insulation.
A few years ago, R. Bruce McDonald figured it was time to do something unique with his 1966 Cub Cadet. The obvious solution was of course to remove the stock 12 HP Kohler engine and replace it with a Garrett GTP 30-67 gas turbine.
Fifteen months ago, I set out to fulfill a lifelong ambition of building my own home using the latest green technology. On a $350,000 budget, several dreams came true. I installed a solar-powered boiler, a rooftop garden and a graywater recycling system. Other dreams were harder: A delivery truck damaged the recyclable foam panels meant to form the frame of my home, and I’m also considering suing my window contractor. But it will all be worth it when we move in next month. For those considering your own eco-haven, I offer four pieces of advice.
It sounds like the promise of an ad in the back of a PopSci issue from the 1950s. Build your own replicating machine! Make anything you desire in your own garage! But that's exactly what veteran hacker Bre Pettis and his pals offer with their CupCake CNC kit: a computer-controlled 3-D printer that can whip up almost any object of less than four inches on a side from two kinds of plastic. The company's goal is to make home manufacturing cheap and common. And the whole setup is open-source, so anybody can modify and improve the design, or even copy it wholesale.
Just because residential water is cheap and plentiful here in upstate New York is no reason to waste it, and the average household does plenty of wasting: A single flush consumes three to seven gallons of water. Inefficient toilets and long showers are two of the biggest water wasters, together accounting for more than 40 percent of the 350 gallons of water used daily in a typical American home. But my eco-home is anything but typical—its graywater recycling system can save at least 110 gallons a day.
A new update from John B. Carnett, PopSci's staff photographer who is using the latest green technology to build his dream home. Read more Green Dream posts here
It's been a long winter. Once the structure was complete, we started putting on the skin—a mixture of 100-year-old hemlock siding, white cedar shingles and a metal roof. All in all, I'm thrilled with the way it's coming together, and hope to be moving to interior work soon. The only serious snag? See that plastic over the window holes?
Most houses require hundreds of feet of electrical wire to connect light switches to a main power source, but not my eco-friendly dream home. I’ve installed a wireless lighting system called Verve that uses radio waves instead of copper wiring to command all the lights and outlets in my house. The system not only saves copper (imagine the savings in a skyscraper) but also lets me put switches wherever I want—beside the kids’ beds, in my pocket or even on the dash of my car—without the need to pull out wires or rip up walls.
What’s a green home without actual greenery? I wanted my eco-friendly house to feel more connected to nature, so I turned the flat stretches of roof into gardens. Rooftop flora is not only scenic, but it can also protect a home against temperature extremes, absorb carbon dioxide, and triple the life span of a roof.
If you're building a house using brand new technology and it seems like you're spending a lot of "build" time standing, staring and walking in circles, I have some advice for you: don't mount a camera above the scene to capture exactly how much time nothing is in fact being built. I'm a photographer, so it seemed like a good idea to mount a Canon 1DS Mk II with a Canon TC80N3–remote controller to make a picture every eight minutes, eight hours a day, for 14 days. During the build I never reviewed the pictures; I just changed out the CF cards and backed them up.
I can't believe it, but the entire box is now up. All the wall and roof panels have been installed. As you may recall the second floor was a bit of a learning curve for everyone, but when it came to the last level, everything went together as expected. LightShip Group, the firm making the panels, took all the field experiences that we had with the first install, went back to the shop and turned out 100 percent perfect panels for my third floor walls and roof.