Humanities › Visual Arts Build to Save Energy Share Flipboard Email Print Visual Arts Architecture Styles An Introduction to Architecture Theory History Great Buildings Famous Architects Famous Houses Skyscrapers Tips For Homeowners Art & Artists By Jackie Craven Art and Architecture Expert Doctor of Arts, University of Albany, SUNY M.S., Literacy Education, University of Albany, SUNY B.A., English, Virginia Commonwealth University Dr. Jackie Craven has over 20 years of experience writing about architecture and the arts. She is the author of two books on home decor and sustainable design. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Jackie Craven Updated November 25, 2019 The most exciting houses being built today are energy-efficient, sustainable, and thoroughly green. From solar-powered dwellings to homes underground, some of these new houses are entirely "off the grid," generating more power than they actually use. Even if you aren't ready for a radical new house, you can slash your utility bills through energy-efficient remodeling. 01 of 09 Build a Solar House Jason Flakes/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon (CC BY-ND 2.0) Think solar houses are clunky and unattractive? Check out these spiffy solar houses. They are designed and built by college students for the "Solar Decathlon" sponsored by the US Department of Energy. Yes, they're small, but they are 100% powered by renewable sources. 02 of 09 Add Solar Panels to Your Old House The historic Spring Lake Inn in New Jersey has photovoltaic panels. Photo © Jackie Craven If you live in a traditional or historic home, you'll probably hesitate to add high-tech photovoltaic solar panels. But some older homes can be converted to solar without harming their architectural charm. Plus, converting to solar can be surprisingly affordable, thanks to tax rebates and other cost-cutting incentives. Check out the solar installation at the historic Spring Lake Inn in Spring Lake, New Jersey. 03 of 09 Build a Geodesic Dome Geodesic Domes are practical and economical. Photo © VisionsofAmerica, Joe Sohm/Getty Images You might not find one in a traditional neighborhood, but oddly-shaped geodesic domes are among the most energy-efficient, most durable houses you can build. Made with corrugated metal or fiberglass, geodesic domes are so inexpensive that they are used for emergency housing in impoverished countries. And yet, geodesic domes have been adapted to create trendy homes for affluent families. 04 of 09 Build a Monolithic Dome Monolithic Domes shelter earthquake survivors in Indonesia. Photo © Dimas Ardian/Getty Images If there is anything stronger than a Geodesic Dome, it would have to be a Dome. Constructed of concrete and steel rebar, Monolithic Domes can survive tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, fire, and insects. What's more, the thermal mass of their concrete walls makes Monolithic Domes especially energy-efficient. Dome. Constructed of concrete and steel rebar, Monolithic Domes can survive tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, fire, and insects. What's more, the thermal mass of their concrete walls makes Monolithic Domes especially energy-efficient. 05 of 09 Build a Modular Home Not all modular homes are energy-efficient, but if you choose carefully, you can purchase a factory-made home that is fine-tuned to minimize power consumption. For example, Katrina Cottages are well-insulated and come complete with Energy Star-rated appliances. Plus, using pre-cut factory-made parts reduces environmental impact during the construction process. 06 of 09 Build a Smaller House Let's face it. Do we really need all the rooms we have? More and more people are scaling down from energy-hogging McMansions and choosing compact, comfortable houses that are less expensive to heat and cool. 07 of 09 Build With Earth Homes in Loreto Bay, Mexico are made with compressed earth blocks. Photo © Jackie Craven Homes made from the earth have provided inexpensive, durable, eco-friendly shelter since ancient times. After all, dirt is free and will provide easy natural insulation. What does an earth house look like? The sky's the limit. 08 of 09 Imitate Nature The most energy-efficient houses function like living things. They are designed to capitalize on the local environment and to respond to the climate. Made from simple materials found locally, these homes blend into the landscape. Ventilation systems open and close like petals and leaves, minimizing the need for air conditioning. For examples of life-like earth-friendly homes, look at the work of Pritzker Prize-winning Australian architect Glenn Murcutt. 09 of 09 Remodel to Save Energy Photo by Jason Todd/The Image Bank Collection/Getty Images You don't have to build a whole new house to reduce your impact on the environment. Adding insulation, repairing windows, and even hanging thermal drapes can yield surprising savings. Even changing lightbulbs and replacing showerheads will help. As you remodel, be mindful of indoor air quality. Consider using eco-friendly paints and cleaning agents.