What does an eco-architect’s house look like?

I dreamed a dream..

Sometimes I have quite vivid dreams, waking in the middle of the night compelled to make notes of what I have experienced. Last night was one. In the dream, a good friend of mine, who is by no means an environmentalist, was challenging my green credentials. He was contrasting my lifestyle with a school colleague of ours who was now an international pop-star. At each of his concerts he would preach to the crowd the necessity of de-carbonising our lifestyles and living in harmony with the planet. In the dream, my friend (who shall remain nameless) actually said that the popstar (who shall also remain nameless) used to go out and sleep in the forest and sometimes hugged trees. (Yes sometimes my dreams are very explicit and not as difficult to interpret as others). He said I hadn’t changed my lifestyle since becoming environmentally enlightened and maybe I wasn’t as serious about this whole thing as I might like to believe.

I think it was at this point that I was ejected from sleep by the disturbing nature of such an accusation. Of course I immediately reassured myself of all the decisions I had made in the past to reduce my carbon footprint. Feeling a bit better though, I decided I might blog about the dream, and talk a little about what I think is important, if you are considering your options about where you live, what sort of house you should build if you really want to limit your carbon impact.

So close your eyes and try to imagine what the ultimate green domestic building looks like?

1282144735-bcho-earth-house21-1000x666Is it this?…


…buried in the landscape so that it is invisible from 100 metres?


Or is it one of these?…



A softie-feelie grassy hobbit hole with no straight lines (bad) and lots of curves (good)?

Or maybe I have built my dream architect designed super passive house with all the bells and whistles in the country with my Prius outside? Something like this perhaps?



In fact its nothing like this at all. One of the hardest environmental decisions I had to make was to reject my dream of building a fantastic eco-house in the countryside. Having grown up in rural County Tipperary, surrounded by farms and fields, I know what advantages this brings, and disadvantages.

We could have bought a cottage in the nearby Cork countryside and extended it. Again, I don’t think this stacks up environmentally. Commuting 10 miles a day each way to work will offset any energy efficiency measures you make to your house. And no matter how efficiently you build a building, there will be a huge carbon load involved in its construction.

So the choice for us was to buy a semi-detached suburban house and renovate it. Re-using resources is dramatically more environmentally benign than the best new-build. It allows resources to go into efficiency measures. It reinforces existing neighbourhoods and rejuvenates ageing communities with young blood.

So this is the eco-architect’s dream house…





…Impressive huh? Well it is south facing and we are chipping away at its carbon footprint as we go. We have done a lot and know what we need to do. But best of all, we can walk to our child’s grandparent’s house, my wife can cycle to work, there are schools and shops and parks around the corner, the streets are safe and we love it!

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