Sunday, January 6, 2013

Brick by Brick: An Eco-Home Dream

I love city living; it's accessible to everything within walking distance, there is always something to do and people to see... and if I were honest- urban living is most likely the most environmental route. We take up less space and have less need for cars.

I also grow tired of city living. Spending 18 years in a small village of 500 people, no sidewalks, no street names (rural route highways!) and the ocean just outside my window- I need that connection with nature. As corny as it sounds my soul starts to whither away after too long in the city, no matter the 'green space'- it's never enough, doesn't even come close to comparing true quiet.

So... for years Andrew and I have been talking about building our own home... away from a city. Unfortunately, building a home= having money and not being in school or in debt. Andrew is still in university so there is no way we can justify getting a mortgage and building a home when only one of us has a full time job.

But the countdown is finally ON. Andrew should be done his degree THIS coming September and we can finally look into houseplans. ECO house plans! I have dreams that include passive solar energy, geothermal heating, a cute whimsical house plan, a yoga+music room, LOTS of windows, sustainable insulation, zero VOC paint, sustainable wood, energy star rated appliances, a GARDEN... all of this right on the ocean (lol go big or go home eh?).

(Like this home- isn't it super duper cute????)

Except building 'green' is complicated. Especially in a province where many people build their homes rurally, but 'green building' practices are still quite new and granola. 'Eco' home plans all look either hand drawn or a bit sketchy, or expensive. And I have no idea where to even start looking for a contractor who would be on the same page, or what green materials would be realistically within our budget and timeframe. Or what a timeframe would actually BE for an eco-home.

It is completely overwhelming and I know it's going to take quite a bit of reading, searching and study. The best resource for Nova Scotia that I've found so far is the Ecology Action Centre's Building page. There's also an 'eco-village' in the southern part of the province: Eliopoli. I'm not quite sure how I feel about it yet, but there are some interesting links...

That's ok... hopefully we have some time to get things set up and ready to go, now that the timeline isn't in years but more likely months.

So... I'm putting out a little call out to my peeps- any suggestions, tips or ressources (whether they are reading materials, links, or contacts- especially in NS) for building a green home? We'd love to have them!


  1. Have you thought about converting an existing home so you are not using as many new materials to be "green"? Filling the walls with recycled denim insulation, adding solar panels, etc., adapting to the existing frame of a home rather than starting from scratch?

    I'm a big fan of by the way :)

    1. we have... i'm not sure it would fit in our budget (if we could find a home on property that we wanted near enough to where we work). Homes are old and expensive and would cost a lot to retro-fit. it's always a possibility though :)
      thanks for the link!

  2. We are big Fans of and wish you much success!

  3. Hi Lisa,
    A green home in Nova Scotia is challenging, but it can be done. It will cost you more up front (but save $ in the long run) and it will take longer than standard construction. Taking the time you need for planning also means savings over a rush job.
    I would encourage you not go the purchased plans route but hire a designer or architect with green building experience to design your home. I've been asked several times to adapt purchased plans and it tends to result in higher costs to the owner than if they had just approached me to design a home. This is because purchased plans are rarely suited to our climate and because every home, especially a green home, should be planned for the specific site. Factors like sun, wind, trees, views... all should be considered thoughtfully.
    You should spend lots of time figuring out what you want in terms of design, space etc. and make sure you are both more or less on the same page (designers are not couples therapists) and allow more time than is typical for the planning and early design phases. Then when the time comes, choosing the right builder is critical - most NS builders are inexperienced with green building and you want someone who gets it.

    1. Hi Lorrie: thank you for the fantastic advice! i agree 100% re: planning for the SITE, it really has been a major obstacle for our planning simply because we can't afford (yet) to buy land, so we have no idea what the land, sun orientation, trees looks like. re: adapting- yes, thank you for confirming what i've heard from family and friends.
      yes, andrew and I have a lot of co-planning to do as a couple- I've witnessed what building a house can do to couples (the beauty of growing up rurally and waiting so long to build is that i've seen it done).

      thank you for your input!! :)

  4. My parents couldn't find the perfect house plan, but they knew roughly what they wanted so they went to an architect. It costs a bit more to get plans drawn, but then you get exactly what you want!

    1. @Jasmine- yes that's right!! i knew they had sold their house and moved. :) I agree with you- i think that is the way to go. now like Lorrie mentioned, it's finding one who is on the same page as us "eco" wise :)

  5. wow i'm impressed with your ambitious plans! that's exciting. i don't know that much about it but assume that building a home in my area of the US (not even in the city but near it) would be more expensive than retrofitting one. some of my experiences the past couple years have also taught me that i don't really want to live in a "work in progress," so if i buy a home someday i'll probably buy one that doesn't need much work (though i don't know when it will ever make sense for me to own my own home).

  6. I'm so excited. This is a huge dream of mine, too. Just doesn't seem like it's anywhere near the horizon at this point. But I'll be ready someday! LOL! Can't wait to hear about your journey!


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