Next City

Take a Break to Admire These Gorgeous, Sustainable Homes

An estimated 1.5 to 2 billion new homes will be needed by the end of the century, writes Jared Green in the introduction to his new book, Good EnergyShouldn't those homes be healthier, more affordable and more beautiful than what came before? According to Green, they can be — at not much additional cost.

In this slideshow of images from Good Energy, a book of best practices for integrating renewable energy into our built environment, Next City has chosen a small selection of homes (and one school) from around the world that use less energy than they create. We hope these images inspire architects and designers to think bigger and greener.

Good Energy, by Jared Green, is published by Princeton Architectural Press.

Belfield Townhomes, Philadelphia

These four-bedroom townhomes opened in 2012, the first new affordable housing North Philly had seen in five decades. They're also the first certified passive houses built in the state of Pennsylvania. 

The walls are "superinsulated," the windows are triple-pane, and 5KW of rooftop solar on each roof generates as much energy as the homeowners need. 
(photo by Sam Oberter)

(photo by Onion Flats)

Paisano Green Community Senior Housing, El Paso

The Paisano Green Community Senior Housing Project is the first net-zero-energy public-housing complex for seniors in the country. It cost twice as much to build compared to a conventional public housing project, but will have a 20 percent lower cost to maintain over its 50-year lifespan, estimates the Housing Authority of the City of El Paso.

(Photo by Jesse Ramirez)

M-KOPA Solar, Nairobi, Kenya

Millions of people who live in sub-Saharan Africa cannot access the electric grid. Enter M-KOPA, which has installed rooftop solar panels on 750,000 homes in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria. Customers pay $35 upfront and a daily installment of $.50 to $1 over the next two years; after that, the customer owns the system. M-KOPA has allowed millions of people to stop using kerosene lamps — linked to pollution and lung cancer — and charge phones or watch TV. More than 100,000 of the panels M-KOPA has sold are produced locally in Naivasha, Kenya, and technicians are hired from the communities in which they sell their products. (Photo by M-KOPA Solar)

M-KOPA also sells solar-powered TVs; the company has sold more than 100,000 of them, which means 500,000 more people have access to news and information.

(Photo by M-KOPA Solar)

Sweetwater Spectrum, Sonoma, California

This housing complex built for adults with autism is both designed to meet its residents' needs with quiet, calming design, and to be net-zero in energy use. The four houses and community center in this complex are arranged to maximize natural light and ventilation and to optimize energy production via rooftop PV panels. (Photo © Marion Brenner)

(Photo by Ariel Huber and Case Design)

Avasara Academy, Lavale, India

Nearly 300 disadvantaged young women from Western India study entrepreneurship at the "nearly net-zero energy" Avasara Academy.

Each building on the campus has a series of "solar chimneys," central vertical open spaces running from the foundation to the roof that draw in cool air through earth ducts buried in the structure foundations. (The grates shown in the previous slide draw warm air out of the room and into the chimney.) The design reduces cooling costs while ensuring a steady supply of fresh air brought in from the outside.

(Photo by Ariel Huber and Case Design)

(Photo by Jesse Ramirez)

Your Turn

We know Next City readers are putting in the work to design buildings as great as these. Tell us about your favorite green homes, so that we can uplift good design and sustainabilty for all.

This slideshow is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our twice-weekly Backyard newsletter.