Eco-friendly luxury villa in British Virgin Islands
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Earth Day: Top 10 Eco-Friendly Home Trends

In honoring Earth Day, the world’s most innovative designers and architects insist that “green” is the new black

April 22 marks the 53rd anniversary of Earth Day. This year’s theme, “Invest in Our Planet,”  resonates in today’s luxury real estate market.

Designers and builders have taken the cutting edge of new, “eco-friendly” technologies to create and renovate houses that embrace green architecture and green design.

They are building homes using locally sourced materials and the power of sunlight, wind, and geothermal energy. There is an array of technologies that help offset our carbon footprint, such as humidity-controlled indoor air, filtered drinking water, LED lighting, HEPA air filters, and “smart home” internet systems and controls.

Herewith, we spotlight 10 of the latest eco-friendly features and a sampling of innovatively built homes that offer the ultimate in luxury and sustainable living.  

1. Green Roofs

Eco-friendly luxury villa in British Virgin Islands
Lion Heart lies on paradisal Oil Nut Bay, a private enclave accessible only by boat or helicopter, on the eastern tip of Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. The 12.55-acre haven, with two built and furnished villas, Halo and Rainbow, provides for four additional guest villas. The 7,450-square-foot green roof abounds with native flora in harmony with the island topography. The cliffside elevation offers unrivaled panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea, the neighboring islands of Necker and Anegada, and the entire coastline of Virgin Gorda. 

Green roofs are aesthetically pleasing and environmentally friendly.

Using vegetation in place of conventional roofing materials also reduces air pollution and absorbs stormwater runoff. They also lower energy costs and even extend the life of the roof’s supporting structure.

The earliest “green roof” might have been the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon, but it was not until the early 1970s in Germany that technology caught up with aesthetics and green roofs became a viable design option.

Today, green roofs are so practical and effective that mainstream, design-focused authorities like HGTV are offering primers on how to install your own. Luxury homes have incorporated green roofs and balconies for a mix of efficient, natural cooling and landscaped, aesthetic beauty. 

2. Sustainable and Locally Sourced Materials

Eco-friendly villa in Italy
Villino Virtus is a leading-edge residential development built in accordance with the principles of biophilic design. Architect Enrico Campus and interior designer Patrick Lesuisse used local stone and wood in traditional construction techniques. These integrate the structure into the rugged Sardinia landforms, from the vaulted ceilings to the Orosei marble floors and hand-carved wood fixtures. A work in progress, the development’s three residential “solutions” already on offer include two- to three-bedroom dwellings featuring finishes of local pink marble. 

This eco-friendly practice is actually not at all new: Before international shipping became commonplace, “locally sourced” was simply the method all builders used.

They chose from stone, wood, thatch, or local clay, depending on which resources were abundant in a particular region. To reduce the carbon footprint of today’s construction practices, architects and contractors are seeking local solutions to new design challenges. 

3. Biophilic Design  

Eco-friendly luxury villa in Italy
Villa Euforbia is one of the “Villas of Tomorrow” in Sardinia’s Portobello di Gallura Residential Park, a private eco-development where nature and architecture converge. The sustainably built waterfront home uses local materials and biophilic design to shape every space in continuity with the island’s lush, coastal landscape. The villa and its nearly five-acre grounds offer optimal indoor-outdoor living all year round. Villa Euforbia is currently featured in a design showcase of “Wellness Homes” at Brera Design Week in Milan (April 17-23), presented by leading Sardinia brokerage Immobilsarda S.r.l.  

Biophilic design is an approach that aims to connect the people who use a space with their environment.

It’s an extension of the term Biophilia, coined by psychoanalyst Eric Fromm and later popularized by American biologist, naturalist, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward O. Wilson.

In his 1984 book, Biophilia, Wilson hypothesized that humans have an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. Proponents of biophilic design assert that applying it to the built environment enhances creativity and improves health and well-being.  

4. Smart-Home Technology 

This grand French-inspired manor is enveloped by woodland atop a hill in an exclusive enclave of Alpine, New Jersey, just eight miles from New York City. Completed in 2017, the 25,700-square-foot chateau-style manor was constructed over four years in a collaboration of artisans led by architect Robert Zampolin, builder Ron Badalamenti, interior design by Interiors by Denise. This property is fitted with the latest in smart-home automation, including a one-touch remote-controlled Crestron system which coordinates all lighting, sound, heating and cooling, security cameras, shades, and the pool and spa.

Today’s eco-friendly houses aren’t just sustainable, they’re smart. AMX, part of Samsung’s Harman Professional Division, de​​signs ​and engineers the Internet of Things.

Crestron is another company at the forefront of home automation. Both AMX and Crestron smart-home systems control light, heat, ventilation, sound—even irrigation—at the touch of a button.

Ideal for homeowners who divide their time among several residences, each home-automation system can be programmed remotely so that energy is not wasted when the property is vacant.

Smart technology can also protect the home. There are many apps with remote, one-touch security notifications: surveillance cameras alerts, security timers, presence detectors, and live-stream audio-visual transmission. 

5. LED Lighting  

LED lighting in Prague apartment
Spanning 3,480 square feet, this luxurious, light-filled, bohemian apartment is the largest in a refurbished historic building in Prague's Lesser Quarter. Surrounded by ancient churches, squares, and cobblestone streets, the two-bedroom residence is defined by the structural beauty of exposed oak beams. Vast windows frame the views of the iconic St. Vitus Cathedral. High-end features include imported travertine tiles, LED beam lighting with remote control, air-conditioning, heat recovery, and a true Gothic cellar with a vaulted ceiling, perfect for storing wine. 

Electricity drastically transformed the nighttime look and feeling of interiors, replacing the soft flicker and glow of candlelight with the hard, bright, on-demand illumination of incandescent bulbs.

Lighting is undergoing a radical change once again, thanks to advances in LED technology. LED bulbs are vastly more energy efficient than the filament bulbs of the 20th century, which means the carbon footprint of a home can be greatly reduced without switching off the lights.

The Dutch multinational corporation Philips, founded in 1891 and a global leader in LED lighting, even produces LED-powered luminous textiles called Kvadrat Soft Cells that can add an atmospheric glow to any interior without the need for a single fixture.

And, of course, software, smart phones and their virtual thumbwheels can instantly change the intensity, temperature, color, and even the very moods of light—restoring the soft, romantic flicker and glow of ancient lamps and candles. 

6. LEED Certification 

LEED Certification luxury penthouse in Miami
Reach Residences at Brickell City Center is a LEED-certified residential tower in the heart of downtown Miami. Penthouse 4202 offers 2,684 square feet of turnkey living space with four bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms. Smart-home automation and one-touch audio and lighting controls are just a few aspects of its up-to-the-minute design. An elevator rises to the roof deck commons, with two heated pools, sun lounges, and gardens. The building also offers a library, business center, cafe, and private parking. Below lies Brickell City Center, one of Miami’s most stylish retail and entertainment spots.

LEED certification has become a byword for eco-friendly construction practices. 

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a global, green building certification program from the U.S. Green Building Council that evaluates the totality of a building’s design: its carbon footprint, energy and water use, waste, transport, materials, health, and indoor environmental quality.

The four-tier certification is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. According to the council, more than 430,000 homes around the world are LEED-certified.

The United States has the most LEED-certified homes. Green single-family homes represent approximately 40 percent of the market, and 84 percent of all residential construction will have sustainable features. 

7. Solar Panels 

This home on Maho Bay is an oasis on the North Shore of St. John in the US Virgin Islands. The four-bedroom main residence and private one-bedroom apartment are built with rugged post-and-beam construction to withstand adverse weather, while a solar-panelled roof and generator ensure the property is self-sufficient. Central air-conditioning, a fully equipped chef's kitchen, carport, one-car garage, indoor boat storage, and a heated outdoor pool are further amenities. The lush gardens are planted with banana, mango, lime, and coconut trees. An exclusive, deeded-access white-sand beach is just a short walk away.

Using the inexhaustible energy of the sun, rooftop solar panels provide a lightweight, long-term, cost-effective way to boost the passive energy of a home.

Solar panels are on-trend and can be an attractive and artistic addition, whether the home is new or centuries old.

Sweden’s SolTech Energy produces beautiful glass roof tiles that allow builders to create energy-efficient, solar-powered homes that draw design inspiration from a classic architectural style.  

8. Geothermal Heating and Cooling 

Geothermal heating and cooling gothic castle in France
The magnificent gothic castle sits on 98.8 acres of wooded parkland along the River Aven in southern Brittany. Developed from the 15th to the 18th centuries, the limestone structure, extensively restored over the last 20 years, offers nearly 25,000 square feet of airy living and entertaining space. Contemporary features include smart-home technology and geothermal subfloor heating. Outside, a natural granite swimming pool and Japanese garden seamlessly blend into the medieval environs. A chapel, honey shed, guest house, caretaker’s home, garage, workshop, and boathouse are among the ancillary structures.

Like solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling harness the forces of nature to provide optimal indoor conditions at any time of year.

This technology lets homeowners keep the most luxurious home’s environmental footprint relatively small, even as its design makes a big aesthetic impact.

An efficient geothermal system can provide 20 years of reliable heating and cooling with minimal maintenance, so the benefits of installing one may outweigh the costs, especially if it’s for a new-build or to replace an old system. 

9. New Habitats for Sea Life 

Land in Butedale Bay in the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia
The 122-acre landholding on Butedale Bay in the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia, Canada, is a coastal development opportunity like no other. The property includes 30 acres of deeded land, 28 acres of deep tidewater bay, 64 acres of long-term leased land and rights of way, hydro-electric licenses, and freshwater and approved marine operation rights. Butedale Lake is a natural source for fresh water that flows through the freehold and cascades down a waterfall into the deep tidewater bay below. This merging of freshwater with seawater creates a diverse ecosystem that attracts a variety of marine life.

One of the most exciting trends in eco-friendly building isn’t happening on land, but on the ocean, where innovative projects such as eco-friendly artificial islands are creating stable habitats for human beings and the sea life below.

Coral, fish, anemones, and all manner of microscopic creatures can carve out a home using the base of each island, as though it were a natural rock formation.

Smart ecological designs are applied on both land and sea, reducing the impact on marine life and even creating an underwater sanctuary for native species and “climate migrants,” aquatic animals on the move due to lost habitats. 

10. Private Eco Preserves 

Private game reserve in South Africa
This 1,195-acre private game reserve is the epitome of unspoiled Africa. Set in South Africa’s Cape Winelands, the property is a refuge offering utmost privacy and seclusion— and awe-inspiring, uninterrupted views of the savanna. A 1.8-mile-long, paved drive winds through rolling plains, a habitat for wildlife, including zebra, eland, kudu, springbok, and red hartebeest. The luxurious residential compound of five buildings converges contemporary and traditional African design elements, including a water-wise landscape of towering acacia and fever trees, water features, ponds, and rock walls. 

And, finally, there is the eco preserve, where the owner is not so much landlord as steward of the earth and water, living in serene harmony with nature.

The concept of an eco-friendly lifestyle is evolving to include health and wellness. Add nature conservancy and outdoor recreation to the mix, and the solution may just be a home on a private preserve. Those in search of greener pastures will find the perfect balance: living mindfully within nature. 

These innovatively designed homes aren’t the only ones to explore. Discover more eco-friendly properties offered for sale, or read more eco-friendly themed content.