Buying or building a house is, for most people, a major investment of money and time – often the largest investment that one makes in a lifetime. With careful design and planning, what otherwise would be an ordinary house-building project can become a rich and satisfying experience, which contributes to the life of the family much more than can be measured in monetary terms.
An eco-home, in its relation to the land and the surrounding community, can embody our most profound feelings about living with nature and with society, and through the intelligence of the design, bring into form the ideals by which we hope to live. This site is dedicated to those who wish to bring these ideals into reality, no matter where they live on planet Earth!
Build Your EcoHouse from Professional Environmental Building Plans
Designing an eco-house is a long and tedious process. Back in 1992 when we started, we never realized how much work it would take to design a simple environmental home for a family of four. Creating a set of custom home floor plans is not an easy task. Creating a set of sustainable home floor plans is a very difficult and complex task, indeed. We had to study the design principles in great detail, analyze the local climatic conditions, check the availability of traditional, environment-friendly and healthy building materials, concentrate on indoor air quality, search for manufacturers of green building products for the design, work out highly unconventional (but fairly simple, and for the better part, vernacular) details, check the environmental building codes and thousands of other issues that must be considered when you decide to design and build an eco-house.
Prior to building a new eco-home, it takes hundreds of hours and a lot of money to design a sustainable house and obtain a professional design. This is necessary because the design determines the quality of your future home. Every feature of your eco-home, from the foundation to the roof, is influenced by it, not to mention the various equipment that makes your design what it is, i.e. “sustainable” or “green”.
Here are some reasons why all eco-minded homebuilders should build from EcoHouse Plans:
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In the wake of perpetually increasing energy consumption and living cost all around the world, sustainability becomes an essential part of house design, as the proper planning and construction of the building itself can result in major energy savings.
The advantage of sustainable housing is one of construction economics. Sustainable systems are built of materials that can be easily obtained all over the world. The houses can be easily built by local contractors, as well as by relatively unskilled owner-builders.
Nevertheless, the decision to go sustainable today is also one made for the future – in purely economic terms, that of construction economics or to save fuel costs; in environmental terms, it is also to conserve limited resources. The economic argument for sustainable housing is based upon the assumption that fuel costs will continue to rise, as they have in recent years, well above general inflation, and that water resources will become scarcer in time.
From the economic point of view, the investment in eco-housing is justified if it pays back the added equipment installation cost by fuel cost savings within a reasonable period. From an environmental point of view alone, eco-housing is justified because it reduces our dependence on non-renewable, polluting fossil fuels.
From the environmental standpoint, the best sustainable design is therefore the one that saves the most renewable energy. However, in economic terms, the best sustainable design is the one which offers the highest return on the investment in equipment and construction.
As you shall see from our designs and house plans featured on EcoHouse-Plans.com, the sustainable approach most justified in economic terms varies according to climate, local fuel costs and the accuracy of assumptions made about eventual fuel cost rises, which in turn depend on local political and economic factors. In making judgments about the economic merit of eco-housing, it should be kept in mind that many assumptions are involved so that the conclusions should not be taken as either absolute, or completely accurate.
Cost of sustainable installations vary according to local construction rates, the equipment used and the amount and type of financing available. For instance, a self-help builder who can contribute his own labour for a sustainable installation saves not only on construction labour, but contractor’s overhead percentage and the resulting finance charges, as well. In addition, a variety of tax incentives under constant revision by many legislatures worldwide, will make sustainable housing more economically attractive.
All things considered, to overcome these limitations, the eco-house plans offered here are founded on a large variety of assumptions from all corners of the globe.
An eco-house is different from the conventional house in the way that four objectives are achieved:
1. It collects the sun’s heat that falls upon the building’s surfaces
during the cold season;
2. It stores that heat so that it can be used during the night or during sunless days;
3. It distributes the stored heat throughout the house for comfort and energy efficiency;
4. It retains the heat in the building by reducing or eliminating usual sources of heat loss.
Ecological design to perform the above functions can be:
1. Active: relies on mechanical equipment (such as pumps, fans or photovoltaic
cells) to collect and help transfer heat to storage;
2. Passive: relies on the parts of the building itself to perform the functions of heat collection, storage and distribution – often without mechanical means – thus considerably reducing cost and construction.
However, while heating may be an important aspect of
sustainable house design in colder climates, in some climates, cooling
may be just as important, if not more so.
A sustainable house should be designed in any climate to prevent overheating in summer, and there are numerous ways of accomplishing this, such as shading by trees or sun screens, ventilating the building interior, and orienting the building plan to cold breezes. Luckily, some equipment used for heating can also used for cooling, in ways that have largely been implemented in our house designs.
In temperate climates, from 20 to 50 percent of the annual heat for a home can be gained by heat from properly oriented and well-designed windows alone, with insulating controls.
An external greenhouse structure, such as a glassed-in porch or a sun room, is less expensive to build than a fully insulated structure, while also adding an additional area to the home that can be used as a garden (for growing vegetables), a socializing space around a pond, etc.).
In contrast to the passive approach, which relies on elements of building design and construction for natural control of climate, active systems use mechanical means (pumps, fans, automatic controls) to collect, store, and distribute heat and provide cooling to a home.
Local climate factors determine the amount of heating/cooling available, which in turn determines the appropriate equipment used to provide comfort for the house occupants.
In northern climates, for instance, fuel for domestic hot water requirements of a family of four, represent from 10% to 20% of the annual heating bill. The fuel savings that are possible with a solar domestic water heater can pay back the initial installation cost in such a climate, within a very few years. In northern climates, heat from storage as low as 27sC can provide comfort conditions. Usable heat could be stored for periods long enough to minimize backup heating needs, to the point that only a fireplace/stove or a small amount of electric heat would be the auxiliary heat required.
PASSIVE, ACTIVE, OR BOTH?
Yet, one should bear in mind that part of the task of creating comfort can be achieved without energy-consuming mechanical heating or cooling equipment, by responding to given climatic conditions in the design of the building shape, its orientation and materials, and that active systems are required only to take over during those periods when passive means are inadequate.
Furthermore, if passive means are first made part of
the building construction, then solar collectors and any other mechanical
heating or cooling equipment can be held to a size that is economically
practical and does not “take over” the design of the house.
The Hannover Principles should be seen as a living document committed to the transformation and growth in the understanding of our interdependence with nature, so that they may adapt as our knowledge of the world evolves. They form the backbone of the EcoHouse Plans featured on this website, as well as the adopted fundamentals upon which the entire design process practised by FA Ecotecture relies.
by William McDonough
The Hannover Principles:
House designs are usually created on computers by using CAD (Computer Aided Design) software. The most common type of CAD files are the DXF files. A DXF file is a CAD file that is sometimes needed, and can be opened by, various brands of CAD software. FA Ecotecture draught EcoHouse Plans using various CAD software brands that run under the Linux operative system. However, the DXF file format is an internationally recognized standard, that can be opened using various CAD software brands that run under other operating systems as well, such as MS Windows. The DXF files downloadable for our designs give you all the features you would get from the blueprints for the same eco-house, and still have all the important details you need to build an eco-home. There are also software utilities available that let you convert a CAD file from one format to another. If you need a different file format we can sometimes provide other file formats.
There are also different versions of CAD software. As new software comes out, the newer CAD files they create may not be compatible with older versions of the CAD software. Typically, a newer CAD program will work with CAD files created by older versions of the CAD software. For example, Version 2005 of AutoCAD should be able to make use of CAD files created by version 13 or version 14 of AutoCAD. However if the versions are too far apart, CAD files from a really old version might not be compatible with a newer version of CAD. If you are using older CAD software, we may be able to save the CAD file using an older CAD format to make it compatible with the CAD program you want to use. If you are making changes to the DXF file, then check the manual (or the help documentation) that came with your software to see what format of CAD files are supported by your CAD program.
If you have a question about what version the CAD file will be, then please ask about this before ordering the CAD File.
Let your local Professionals Modify Your EcoHouse Plan
Sometimes, people think they can buy an inexpensive CAD software package and then make changes to the CAD file themselves. But if you’re not familiar with CAD software or with sustainable design, construction techniques and building codes, then modifying an EcoHouse plan is a job that is best left to someone who knows what they are doing.
It is fine to use a CAD program to view and print a DXF file, but when it comes to making changes to a CAD file, let a local professional do that work. It can take years of experience to learn how to use CAD software to modify house plans.
Nevertheless, please bear in mind that FA Ecotecture will not be held responsible for any damage or consequence arising from the subsequent modification, use, or misuse of the designs featured on www.EcoHouse-Plans.com, nor the non-compliance with the local laws and codes of practice, once their download had been completed from www.EcoHouse-Plans.com.
When building a new home, you will need house working drawings. The home working drawings provide hundreds of additional details needed to build your eco-home. You can save time and money by purchasing our eco-home building plans, professionally designed and produced in English language, to meet ISO, ASTM and BS recognized building standards. Best of all, you'll only pay a fraction of the original design cost because the design cost is shared by so many people all over the globe.
Working Drawings included with most EcoHouse Plan designs:
DXF files (available with most designs):
PDF files (available with most designs)
Options and Extras for EcoHouse Plans (vary from one design to another):
Our house floor plans conform to the industry's major international building standards, i.e. ISO (the International Standard), ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) and BS (the British Standard) as well as building environmental assessment methods - BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) and LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design).
EcoHouse Plan Copyrights:
All eco-house plans and designs found on this web site are protected by copyright laws.
Ordering is performed online, only.
Once your payment has been processed and approved, an email with your Internet download address is sent automatically to your registered email address. Each download address can be used once, and once only. Should you encounter any difficulties or inconvenience with the download, please contact us immediately using the details provided below. Alternately, if you opt for printed version of the house plans, we shall send you via registered airmail the complete Working Drawings to your postal address, together with the CAD drawings on a business-card CD. All plans are printed on ISO A3 paper format to facilitate their photocopying and further reproduction in as many copies as your local regulations demand.
The Köppen Climate Classification System is the most widely
used for classifying the world's climates. Most classification systems
used today are based on the one introduced in 1900 by the Russian-German
climatologist Wladimir Köppen. Köppen divided the Earth's surface into
climatic regions that generally coincided with world patterns of vegetation
The Köppen system recognizes five major climate types based on the annual and monthly averages of temperature and precipitation. Each type is designated by a capital letter.
A - Moist Tropical Climates are known for their high temperatures year round and for their large amount of year round rain.
B - Dry Climates are characterized by little rain and a huge daily temperature range. Two subgroups, S - semiarid or steppe, and W - arid or desert, are used with the B climates.
C - In Humid Middle Latitude Climates land/water differences play a large part. These climates have warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters.
D - Continental Climates can be found in the interior regions of large land masses. Total precipitation is not very high and seasonal temperatures vary widely.
E - Cold Climates describe this climate type perfectly. These climates are part of areas where permanent ice and tundra are always present. Only about four months of the year have above freezing temperatures.
Further subgroups are designated by a second, lower case letter which
distinguish specific seasonal characteristics of temperature and precipitation.
f - Moist with adequate precipitation in all months and no dry season. This letter usually accompanies the A, C, and D climates.
m - Rainforest climate in spite of short, dry season in monsoon type cycle. This letter only applies to A climates.
s - There is a dry season in the summer of the respective hemisphere (high-sun season).
w - There is a dry season in the winter of the respective hemisphere (low-sun season).
To further denote variations in climate, a third letter was added to the code.
a - Hot summers where the warmest month is over 22°C (72°F). These can be found in C and D climates.
b - Warm summer with the warmest month below 22°C (72°F). These can
Three basic climate groups.
Three major climate groups show the dominance of special combinations of air-mass source regions.
Low-latitude Climates: These climates are controlled by equatorial a tropical air masses.
Tropical Moist Climates (Af)
Rainfall is heavy in all months. The total annual rainfall is often more than 250 cm. (100 in.). There are seasonal differences in monthly rainfall but temperatures of 27°C (80°F) mostly stay the same. Humidity is between 77 and 88%.
High surface heat and humidity cause cumulus clouds to form early in the afternoons almost every day.
The climate on eastern sides of continents are influenced by maritime tropical air masses. These air masses flow out from the moist western sides of oceanic high-pressure cells, and bring lots of summer rainfall. The summers are warm and very humid. It also rains a lot in the winter
- Average temperature: 18 °C (°F)
- Annual Precipitation: 262 cm. (103 in.)
- Latitude Range: 10° S to 25 ° N
- Global Position: Amazon Basin; Congo Basin of equatorial Africa; East Indies, from Sumatra to New Guinea.
Wet-Dry Tropical Climates (Aw)
A seasonal change occurs between wet tropical air masses and dry tropical air masses. As a result, there is a very wet season and a very dry season. Trade winds dominate during the dry season. It gets a little cooler during this dry season but will become very hot just before the wet season.
- Temperature Range: 16 °C
- Annual Precipitation: 0.25 cm. (0.1 in.). All months less than 0.25 cm. (0.1 in.)
- Latitude Range: 15 ° to 25 ° N and S
- Global Range: India, Indochina, West Africa, southern Africa, South America and the north coast of Australia
Dry Tropical Climate (BW)
These desert climates are found in low-latitude deserts approximately between 18° to 28° in both hemispheres. these latitude belts are centered on the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, which lie just north and south of the equator. They coincide with the edge of the equatorial subtropical high pressure belt and trade winds. Winds are light, which allows for the evaporation of moisture in the intense heat. They generally flow downward so the area is seldom penetrated by air masses that produce rain. This makes for a very dry heat. The dry arid desert is a true desert climate, and covers 12 % of the Earth's land surface.
- Temperature Range: 16° C
- Annual Precipitation: 0.25 cm (0.1 in). All months less than 0.25 cm (0.1 in).
- Latitude Range: 15° - 25° N and S.
- Global Range: southwestern United States and northern Mexico; Argentina; north Africa; south Africa; central part of Australia.
Climates in this zone are affected by two different air-masses. The tropical air-masses are moving towards the poles and the polar air-masses are moving towards the equator. These two air masses are in constant conflict. Either air mass may dominate the area, but neither has exclusive control.
Dry Midlatitude Climates (BS)
Characterized by grasslands, this is a semiarid climate. It can be found between the desert climate (BW) and more humid climates of the A, C, and D groups. If it received less rain, the steppe would be classified as an arid desert. With more rain, it would be classified as a tallgrass prairie.
This dry climate exists in the interior regions of the North American and Eurasian continents. Moist ocean air masses are blocked by mountain ranges to the west and south. These mountain ranges also trap polar air in winter, making winters very cold. Summers are warm to hot.
- Temperature Range: 24° C (43° F).
- Annual Precipitation: less than 10 cm (4 in) in the driest regions to 50 cm (20 in) in the moister steppes.
- Latitude Range: 35° - 55° N.
- Global Range: Western North America (Great Basin, Columbia Plateau, Great Plains); Eurasian interior, from steppes of eastern Europe to the Gobi Desert and North China.
Mediterranean Climate (Cs)
This is a wet-winter, dry-summer climate. Extremely dry summers are caused by the sinking air of the subtropical highs and may last for up to five months.
Plants have adapted to the extreme difference in rainfall and temperature between winter and summer seasons. Sclerophyll plants range in formations from forests, to woodland, and scrub. Eucalyptus forests cover most of the chaparral biome in Australia.
Fires occur frequently in Mediterranean climate zones.
- Temperature Range: 7 °C (12 °F)
- Annual Precipitation: 42 cm (17 in).
- Latitude Range: 30° - 50° N and S
- Global Position: central and southern California; coastal zones bordering the Mediterranean Sea; coastal Western Australia and South Australia; Chilean coast; Cape Town region of South Africa.
Dry Midlatitude Climates (Bs)
These dry climates are limited to the interiors of North America and Eurasia.
Ocean air masses are blocked by mountain ranges to the west and south. This allows polar air masses to dominate in winter months. In the summer, a local continental air mass is dominant. A small amount of rain falls during this season.
Annual temperatures range widely. Summers are warm to hot, but winters are cold.
- Temperature Range: 31 °C (56°F).
- Annual Precipitation: 81 cm. (32 in.).
- Latitude Range: 30° - 55° N and S
- Global Position: western North America (Great Basin, Columbia Plateau, Great Plains); Eurasian interior.
Moist Continental Climate (Cf)
Deciduous Forest biome
This climate is in the polar front zone - the battleground of polar and tropical air masses. Seasonal changes between summer and winter are very large. Daily temperatures also change often. Abundant precipitation falls throughout the year. It is increased in the summer season by invading tropical air masses. Cold winters are caused by polar and arctic masses moving south.
- Temperature Range: 31 °C (56 ° F)
- Average Annual Precipitation: 81 cm (32 in).
- Latitude Range: 30° - 55° N and S (Europe: 45° - 60° N).
- Global Position: eastern parts of the United States and southern Canada; northern China; Korea; Japan; central and eastern Europe.
Polar and arctic air masses dominate these regions. Canada and Siberia are two air-mass sources which fall into this group. A southern hemisphere counterpart to these continental centers does not exist. Air masses of arctic origin meet polar continental air masses along the 60th and 70th parallels.
Boreal forest Climate ( Dfc)
This is a continental climate with long, very cold winters, and short, cool summers. This climate is found in the polar air mass region. Very cold air masses from the arctic often move in. The temperature range is larger than any other climate. Precipitation increases during summer months, although annual precipitation is still small.
Much of the boreal forest climate is considered humid. However, large areas in western Canada and Siberia receive very little precipitation and fall into the subhumid or semiarid climate type.
- Temperature Range: 41 °C (74 °F), lows; -25 °C (-14 °F), highs; 16 °C (60 °F).
- Average Annual Precipitation: 31 cm (12 in).
- Latitude Range: 50° - 70° N and S.
- Global Position: central and western Alaska; Canada, from the Yukon Territory to Labrador; Eurasia, from northern Europe across all of Siberia to the Pacific Ocean.
Tundra Climate (E)
The tundra climate is found along arctic coastal areas. Polar and arctic air masses dominate the tundra climate. The winter season is long and severe. A short, mild season exists, but not a true summer season. Moderating ocean winds keep the temperatures from being as severe as interior regions.
- Temperature Range: -22 °C to 6 °C (-10 °F to 41 °F).
- Average Annual Precipitation: 20 cm (8 in).
- Latitude Range: 60° - 75° N.
- Global Position: arctic zone of North America; Hudson Bay region; Greenland coast; northern Siberia bordering the Arctic Ocean.
Highland Climate (H)
Highland climates are cool to cold, found in mountains and high plateaus. Climates change rapidly on mountains, becoming colder the higher the altitude gets. The climate of a highland area is closely related to the climate of the surrounding biome. The highlands have the same seasons and wet and dry periods as the biome they are in.
Mountain climates are very important to midlatitude biomes. They work as water storage areas. Snow is kept back until spring and summer when it is released slowly as water through melting.
- Temperature Range: -18 °C to 10 °C (-2 °F to 50°F)
- Average Annual Precipitation: 23 cm (9 in.)
- Latitude Range: found all over the world
- Global Position: Rocky Mountain Range in North America, the Andean mountain range in South America, the Alps in Europe, Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, the Himalayans in Tibet, Mt. Fuji in Japan.