Environementally Friendly Home

Author: Mark Roland

Time: 1 class period
Preparation Time: none

Handouts, web access


During this lesson, students will brainstorm some ideas for how to design a house that takes into account individual impact on environmental factors as a way to consider environmental health issues. After coming up with a list of ideas, they will look at a few houses that were designed for this purpose. There are a few different articles describing both some successes and some failures. It is important to realize that the most effective way to reduce energy consumption and environmental impact is to be willing to at least make some sacrifices. This does not mean giving up the comforts of modern living, but it might mean choosing low water landscaping, keeping the thermostat at more reasonable temperatures, and using low-flow water fixtures.

Purpose –The purpose of this lesson is to engage students in the central idea of this quarter. The last quarter focused on the inevitable environmental health impacts of energy consumption, while this quarter will look at ways to reduce both actual consumption and the impact of energy use.

Students will be able to:
1. Discuss ways to make homes more environmentally friendly.
2. Understand ways to reduce home resource consumption, such as passive solar heating, insulation, and geothermal heating and cooling.

National Science Education Standard
Content Standard E-Science and Technology
• Creativity, imagination, and a good knowledge base are all required in the work of science and engineering.
• Science and technology are pursued for different purposes. Scientific inquiry is driven by the desire to understand the natural world, and technological design is driven by the need to meet human needs and solve human problems. Technology, by its nature, has a more direct effect on society than science because its purpose is to solve human problems, help humans adapt, and fulfill human aspirations. Technological solutions may create new problems. Science, by its nature, answers questions that may or may not directly influence humans. Sometimes scientific advances challenge people's beliefs and practical explanations concerning various aspects of the world.

Teacher Background
As one of the selected readings indicates, there really is no such thing as a zero impact house, or even close to it. However, there are many technologies available that can reduce the impact of buildings tremendously. All of these things together can greatly reduce the amount of resources consumed. This impact would be very noticeable if an entire community was planned in this way.

Related and Resource Websites

http://www.bobvila.com/BVTV/HomeAgain/Video-0321-01-0.html (clip from Bob Vila)
http://www.fw.vt.edu/forestupdate/Volume%2018/18.2.4.htm (wood vs. steel)
http://www.healthybuilding.net/pvc/PVC-free_house_features.html (New Orleans, Habitat)
http://www.thepepper.com/realty_green_home.html (phoenix, good details)
(University of Alberta project)
http://www.yournewhouse.com/Departments/TVShow/seg_index.asp?ts_id=9008 (good detail, geothermal)



Day 1

1. As students enter the classroom, have these questions posted for them to respond to:

a. In what ways does your family try to conserve energy and water?
b. What other, practical ways, can you think of that you could be doing?
c. How much trash do you think your household generates in a week? (As in the number of bags?
d. How much of this is recyclable or biodegradable?

2. Discuss the answers to these questions with the class. Try to see what understanding of this subject your students have, and what technologies they’re aware of. Does anyone use a compost box? Does anyone sort recyclables? Discuss what materials are recyclable in your community, and how to recycle them. What about simple methods of opening and closing the doors and windows during certain times of the day?

3. Watch the clip from Bob Vila showing a tour of a house being constructed using a lot of recycled materials. Does this house still consume energy? What problems are there still with it?

4. The next website listed, titled wood vs. steel, compares the energy consumption associated with different building materials. It also mentions the comparison of renewable vs. non-renewable resources. Does this contradict what the video from Bob Vila had to say about using recycled steel? If that steel hadn’t been recycled, what would have happened to it?

5. The rest of the websites are all pretty comparable. They all depict slightly different aspects of environmentally friendly design. Allow students some time to view them independently, either on computers or as handouts. Ask them to look for common themes as well as discrepancies. What are some ideas they’ve never heard of before? If you don’t have time to view them all try to view the New Orleans website which discusses a house on a low budget, and the geothermal site because of it’s unique technology.

Ask students to summarize what they learned today in a short written response. They should include information about new technologies, and ideas for conservation that they could take home with them and try that day. What questions did today’s lesson raise for them that they would like answered?

None required, but here are some suggestions, if desired. You could ask students to research one of the technologies that they learned about from the class. Another suggestion is to have students monitor a certain resource, such as electricity or water, or to monitor the production of garbage. After a test period, have them enact some programs to reduce water or electricity consumption, or to reduce garbage production. Have them continue to monitor their consumption, and see if there is an improvement.

Embedded Assessment
The class discussions should be graded in some way to ensure participation. The warm-up questions could be marked as well.











PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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