How to Design a Cabin for Sustainable Living

By Glenda Taylor
Design with sustainabliity in mind.
Photo courtesy of Stock.xchng

Sustainable living is all about conserving our natural resources and reducing the impact of humans on the Earth. The best time to implement sustainable aspects into your cabin is during the designing and building stages. When you’re ready to incorporate eco-friendly elements, keep in mind that you may alter your lifestyle but, in return, you’ll be contributing to the health of the planet and the welfare of future generations.

Incorporate passive solar elements. Passive solar design utilizes the changing seasons and your environment to reduce your energy usage. For instance, you may install large windows facing the South under a deep dormer. During the hot summer, the dormer shields the sun from the windows but in the winter, the sun drops in the sky and your windows act as an absorbent heat sponge, supplying warmth to your home.

Berm one or more sides of your cabin to reduce heating and cooling costs. Position your cabin so the back or one side faces the prevailing winter wind and bring the dirt up in that area to provide an excellent insulation factor. The landscaped berm portions of your cabin will need concrete, stone or other masonry in the area in direct contact with the soil.

Install eco-friendly appliances and waste systems. Waterless composting toilets are self-contained and vented to prevent odors. Along the same line, you can include a kitchen waste compost system and both units will process waste and turn it into usable fertilizer for your plants and trees.

Plan to build your sustainable cabin off-grid by installing a non-electric refrigeration system powered by propane and generate your own electricity with a wind or solar system. Although this is the ideal green builders strive to obtain, it is advisable to have the option of using the power grid should your system fail.

Incorporate recycled watershed elements into your cabin plans to provide irrigation for crops or livestock. This is the time to design the drainage paths from your roof and your lot in order to take advantage of natural rainfall. Devise a method whereby water will flow into holding tanks or a pond for future use.

Choose the lot or land on which to build your cabin with care. Plan to remove as few trees as possible and position your cabin where the natural geography of the land and present vegetation will provide protection from wind, erosion and the sun.