John B. Carnett, PopSci's staff photographer, is using the latest green technology to build his dream home. Follow his progress in his monthly magazine column (the first of which you're reading now) and on the Green Dream blog.
In the past 20 years, I've lived in some pretty weird places — a leaky loft, a sailboat, an old carriage house that I rehabbed myself. Makeshift bachelor pads were fine until I found myself with a wife and two small boys.
Now I'm building a real home on three acres of land with river views and plenty of room for the kids to explore. And I'm going as green as I can, as cheaply as I can, starting with the prefab panels that I'm using instead of lumber to build the basic frame.
The walls arrive on site pre-cut and ready to install, no special tools or hired help required. With a few buddies, I simply tilted the panels in place and secured them to a steel track on the foundation, building the whole box in less than eight days. A lumber frame would have taken me weeks to measure, cut, fit, and nail everything in place. Other types of insulating panels can require extra labor and a crane to install — in other words, more time and money.
House: 3,500-square-foot, four-bedroom contemporary
Location: Greenwich, N.Y.
Project: Install a prefab panel box
Cost: $7.04 per square foot
Time to install: Approx. 8 days
Materials: Metal frame filled with expanded polystyrene and graphite
Eco advantages: Fully recyclable; no off-gassing, heat loss or mold
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.