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Renewable energy is the future. Not only does it reduce your environmental impact, but it also allows you to become more self-sufficient and less dependent on conventional energy technologies.
Some architects have been grabbing the green energy bull by the horns and creating impressively stunning designs that are energy efficient — and really cool. Here are three of our favorites.
1. Ecocapsule: The Moveable Micro-Home
Created by a group of Slovakian millennials, the Ecocapsule pods look like something from a sci-fi movie. Adorable as they are practical, Ecocapsule homes are powered entirely by wind and solar energy and can be taken anywhere. Seriously — anywhere. Promotional pictures for Ecocapsule show the two-person micro-homes nesting on the top of buildings and the edge of cliffs. Take that, overpopulation!
According to the people who designed Ecocapsule, the pods are the first truly independent micro-homes. Its portable size and powerful battery (that will even charge an electric car) could easily make it the hot new way to road trip.
Other impressive features include the capsule’s membrane water filters, which sanitize rainwater and funnel it into a tank below the floor. A legitimate toilet means you can avoid awkward mid-pee encounters with wildlife, and thermal insulation maximizes energy efficiency and keeps inside temperatures pleasant.
Ecocapsules are currently available for pre-order and the first-generation pods will be shipped by the end of 2016.
2. ZEB Pilot House: A Zero Emission Building
The Zeb Pilot House is a real overachiever: a photovoltaic array and solar thermal panels allow the house to generate enough energy to power itself and more. Though it produces an estimated 19 200 kWh annually, its total electricity needs are only around 7,272 kWh, including the heating of its (rather elegant) outdoor swimming pool. The building is designed to be a family house, but it was created to demonstrate the possibilities of renewable energy and to facilitate learning.
Solar heat gain is maximised by strategically placed glass on the inside of the house, as well as the roof’s 19-degree southeast slope, ensuring that more rays are caught by the solar panels. Water for the toilet and garden comes from the home’s rainwater collection system, and the shower is heated using surplus heat. Other surplus heat is redirected to warm up water from the taps, thanks to an efficient heat exchanger.
Outside, you’ll find an atrium complete with a fireplace, furnishings for outdoor dining, a small breakfast spot made with recycled timber blocks, a firewood-heated sauna, and fruit trees and vegetable gardens to allow for even greater self-reliance.
3. The Fab Lab House: An Organism to Be Inhabited
The Fab Lab House is a wood-based solar house described by its creators as “an organism to be inhabited” — and not just because of its cell-like shape. Covered in flexible solar panels, the house is designed to act like a self-sufficient tree, capturing energy to store, share, or return to the house to produce its own electricity.
The Fab Lab House’s “climate-passive structure” is powered completely by sun, water, and wind, creating a microclimate that passively optimizes habitability. It also monitors its own behavior using a control system in order to record and share how the house interacts with the environment.
This innovative home has been recognized for its originality and contribution to the world of renewable energy by the tens of thousands of guests who have visited it — and Solar Decathlon Europe, which gave the Fab Lab House its People’s Choice Award. Those wanting to purchase their own Fab Lab House, which can be built in 15 days and house a family of four, can do so for about $49,000.
Renewable energy-powered homes are gaining traction each year. If you are motivated to “get off the grid” in whatever ways you can, solar power is one of the best ways to make your home more self-sufficient. The cost of installing solar is more affordable than you think, and as technology has become cheaper and more advanced, it’s now easier to implement than ever before.