Sustainable architecture: The low down on low energy houses

Private Business2 Private Business2
Margate Resilient Residence, ZeroEnergy Design ZeroEnergy Design Classic style houses White
Loading admin actions …

The primary benefit of a low-energy home is clear: savings on the energy bill. In a passive home, you could even eliminate your energy bill. But the other benefits of low energy houses aren't quite as well known. 

The additional benefits revolve around the strategies the architects decide to use to make the home energy efficient. Recycled materials, used in insulation as well as in other parts of the home, offer beauty along with additional cost savings. Lush green spaces can help regulate temperature, but they also provide a place to relax. We've gathered up some award winning low energy homes to show you their strategies and benefits. 

1. A prize winner

In Switzerland, at a height of 1,200 meters, the Markert family, together with the German eco-pioneer Baufritz, built a passive house which is completely independent of the public power supply. After two years of testing, it is clear that the turn to 100 percent renewable energies is possible. I have used different, complementary systems so that the supply can work all year round, explains Hausherr Stefan Markert, project manager for renewable energies at Soltop AG (, his sophisticated concept. In addition, the project was honored for its great commitment to climate protection within the framework of the Swiss Climate Prize.

The solar thermal collectors are integrated into the house facade to generate hot water and support heating. A photovoltaic system with a rated output of 3 kWp placed in the garden in a south-facing position generates electricity for the 150 square meter detached house. The conditions are ideal: the clear mountain air, hardly fog, over 300 sunny days a year and the reflection of the sun rays through the snow in the winter guarantee high yields. The solar energy supply is as high as in the Spanish Catalonia, says Stefan Markert. He built an additional PV plant with 1 kWp in the façade under the balcony. A small-wind power plant on the roof provides electricity if the photovoltaic elements are snowed in winter – and this is often possible in the Swiss mountains. The weekly supply stores a battery block in the cellar. A sophisticated control, almost a miniature power station, charges and discharges it. The energy supply is minimized by controlled ventilation with heat recovery.

2. A Passive Haus

This affordable 1650 square foot home meets the Passive House standard, an international green home code! The roof is corrugated aluminium and is replete with solar panels that provide the home with its own energy. Red accents and an angular design give the home a unique look.

3. Retains the heat

This vacation home on the New England coast uses its modest 1,200 square feet plan efficiently. It is designed to the Passive House criteria as well. The house uses a heat recovery ventilator to maintain excellent indoor air quality with minimal energy expense. One-tenth of the energy is needed for this home compared to the average home. Carefully selected south-facing windows take advantage of the sun to heat the home in the winter. The concrete floors absorb heat and re-radiate it into the home to keep as much heat inside as possible.

4. Harness the power of the sun with windows

You'll notice that the whole one side of the home is almost entirely glass, which allows natural light to flow into the home. This creates a naturally temperate environment so that the home is warm in winter and cool in summer. This means that less money is spent on electricity and the home is far more energy-efficient You'll even notice that there are skylights in the roof. These are a great addition to a home because they allow for natural light, without compromising on the privacy of a home.

5. A heat pump and smart technology

Architects at Massive Passive designed this home to meet the passive house standard of energy efficiency. They also used ecologically friendly materials in its construction. Smart technology regulates air quality and a heat pump helps to keep energy use down.The bright interiors are wrapped in oak. An open plan on the main floor connects the contemporary kitchen and sophisticated slate tiles.

6. You can renovate an old home

The architects at Solares Architecture conducted a major renovation to make this home energy efficient and livable. They made the house air-tight by radically improving the insulation. They also installed a high-efficiency boiler, compact radiators, and a wood-burning stove to keep the home warm and toasty.

You'll find more photos of the renovation here

7. Prefab houses that are energy-efficient

Energy efficiency doesn’t have to be clunky or industrial in its style. This prefab home is modern and elegant. It’s a great family home on two floors with plenty of living space. Solar cells blanket the roof. We love the asymmetry of the house. You could never guess that a look like this could be achieved by a pre-fab home. The touches of beige on the exterior also warm it nicely. 

8. It uses 15% of the energy of a comparable home!

This 2,600 square foot home was a tight fit between two older homes. The architects at Zeroenergy Design maximized opportunities for light and space all on a small footprint. Energy efficiency is key to this project and the home consumes a shockingly low amount. It uses 15% of the energy of a comparable home!The home produces enough energy to meet 60% of its demand. Zeroenergy achieved multiple green home certifications for the project.

9. Not just solar cells but a heat pump

For the construction of this house in Belarus, the owners had two primary priorities: minimize their impact on the environment, but don't sacrifice the comfort or style they were looking for in a home. From the outside, the house looks unassuming. But the underlying systems that power the house are quite powerful and innovative.

Electricity is generated by solar panels and a geothermal system supplies the heat for the house. The system is very efficient, because it does not rely on electricity or fossil fuels like oil or propane to generate heat (and most systems also supply air conditioning and hot water). A small amount of electricity is all that's needed to power the heat pump. The exterior is clad in insulated panels. These panels help to decrease energy consumption, but also add dimension to the facade through their grid configuration.

10. You don't have to compromise on style

The home is so picturesque, it looks like it could be pulled from a children’s storybook. It has a timeless look. The professionals at Homeredi created this 2,800 square foot energy efficient home that cost $2,036,928.00 to build. Typical of a Colonial-style home, the facade is symmetrical, cheerful, and proud. Light grey siding clads the exterior with white trim and accents. Large windows make the home look welcoming from the outside. Even on a cloudy day, the home will be bright inside.

11. Modern designs

This stylish and ultramodern residence near Stuttgart in Germany consumes less energy and is a very cozy place for a young family. Designed by the architects at Boser Architektur, the house flaunts lavish amounts of glass to capture natural light efficiently. The building materials also offer natural insulation, while the interiors look trendy and inviting. Generous amount of glazing make the house look very welcoming as well. Surrounded by lush greenery, the house makes no effort to conceal its love for nature.

12. A converted barn in Ontario

Using solar panels on the roof, the 2,000 square foot home can produce its own energy. The long structure and gabled roof make us think of a converted barn. Cheerful large windows open up the main floor to the surrounding country landscape. The windows have a distinct cottage style that we love. It’s one of the main features that makes this home so attractive.

13. Go high-tech

This high-tech house is brought to you by the architects at ZeroEnergy Design, a Boston-based architecture practice that designs new constructions as well as major renovations for building modern green homes. This home is as energy-efficient as possible from the use of insulation, strategically placed windows, solar panels, and a design that encourages interior air circulation. Tall grasses and small shrubs sprout up around the base of the home, providing a grounding and sheltering effect that makes the structure appear established even though it's a brand new addition to the site.

Need help with your home project?
Get in touch!

Highlights from our magazine