- — The hottest trend in home design is not limited to wow-factor kitchens, master-suite bathrooms with soaking tubs or the family-friendly great room. Instead, a solid trend in home design is one where homes are built with energy efficiency and sustainable materials in mind.
That means home building has gone green -- probably to stay.
According to the National Home Builders Association, the green building market has increased dramatically from 2 percent of homes built to energy-efficient standards in 2005 to 17 percent of homes built in 2011. The American Institute of Architects reports similar numbers, with an increase of requests for energy-efficient products and energy management systems, including solar panels and geothermal technology.
This growth is expected to continue rising to an estimated 30 percent by 2016, says Kevin Morrow, senior program manager for Energy and Green Building at the NAHB.
"There is growth potential everywhere as costs go up, commuting times go up and people start looking at living in their homes longer," Morrow explained. "People are looking at what is the actual cost of the home, rather than just the purchase cost. You don't have to be a tree-hugger to benefit from green living."
Across the country, "going green" is different in every region and most consumers are looking for immediate and personal benefits like paying less for utility bills and using more environmentally-friendly materials.
Of course in every movement there are the early adapters who embrace the latest advances. That's true in green home design, too.
"Not every new home across the country has solar panels or wind turbines but more and more do," said Morrow. "There's a lot of interest in geothermal technology because you're tapping into the consistent temperature of the earth. That's more and more interesting to people."
As more homeowners begin to make choices about green design, we thought it would be interesting to find homes that represent what's happening in this niche, From recycled building materials, alternative energy sources and biodegradable features, it's more likely that these "unusual" green homes will turn up in your neck of the woods -- sooner than you think!
17 S Lemuria, Taos NM (below)
For sale: $240,000
This home is green in both color and design. An "earthship" home, this Taos home for sale is constructed from natural and recycled materials and relies on its thick walls to keep the home's temperature regulated to 70 degrees year-round. Other green features include a re-filtered water system, solar-run electricity and plans for an interior greenhouse to provide "year-round groceries."
425 Wallis Rd, Rye NH
For sale: $699,900
The best way to go green in home-building? Create a new home out of an old structure. This New Hampshire home was built from a 150-year-old barn and still retains the barn posts and stonework of the original structure. Foam insulation and a geothermal system keep heating and cooling costs down while making the home even more environmentally friendly.
22 Vanguard Way, Dallas TX (below)
For sale: $1,199,130
Any green rating system is going to focus on the entire building process from start to finish, including during its construction, occupation and how the building will be disposed of after its life is done. This Dallas home for sale has earned a LEED gold certification, the second-level of the national rating program. Besides relaying on geothermal energy to heat and cool the home, the house also captures rainfall on its roof for reuse, has low-E windows, and foam insulation.
75 Old Stage Rd, Granville VT (below)
For sale: $260,000
Do Hobbits live green? This listing assumes they do. Two "hand-sculpted" yurts make up the home for sale in Granville, VT. With thick clay walls and a round design, the home gets much of its heat from passive solar gain, also relying on solar panels and a back-up generator for additional needs. The 25-acre property also relies on natural springs for water.
11645 Alder Hill Rd, Truckee CA (below)
For sale: $2,750,000
Although building a home out of rammed earth is a recognized green practice, it's by no means new. Homes with thick, earthen walls have dated back thousands of years and are long recognized as a sustainable and energy-efficient way to construct a home. Despite the more ancient technique of construction, this Truckee home for sale is by no means outdated. The house features a gourmet kitchen, geo-thermal fired heating system, as well as a planted roof and lawn with a robot mower.
Related: 4 People Who Are Living Greener Off-the-Grid
Green Home Trends: From Baby Steps to Extreme Updates
7 Ways to Beat the High Cost of Home Building