Solar Powered Concrete Home With a Green Roof

While concrete may not be a very sustainable material to work with when building houses, the newly completed MeMo House makes up for it in other green features. It is located in Buenos Aires, Argentina and was designed by the local firm Arquitectura.

The MeMo House measures a generous 2,314 sq ft (215 sq m), and is located on a narrow plot of land. It is a two story house, and the living room, dining room, and kitchen are located on the ground floor. The three bedroom and three bathrooms are located on the first floor, while the home also features a rooftop terrace and a spacious deck on the ground floor. The home has a green roof, as well as several greenery-filled areas throughout.

The walls inside the house are exposed concrete, which might not be ideal for everyone, but in the case of MeMo House it works, due to the ample amounts of greenery and natural wood. The rooms all feature large, floor-to-ceiling windows which let in plenty of natural daylight and allow for excellent cross ventilation. The borders between the indoor and outdoor spaces are also effectively blurred in this way. The windows are also fitted with large wooden shutters for when shade or privacy is needed.

While concrete may not be a very green building material, it does provide excellent thermal mass, so the home is quite energy efficient. The large windows ensure that all rooms in the house have enough light without needing to use electric lights. The home is also equipped with a rainwater collection system, and this water is used to irrigate the green areas of the home. A rooftop solar panel array harvests enough solar energy to lessen the home’s dependence on the grid considerably. The garden gate was made from leftover materials, while they made sure to compost all the biodegradable waste produced during construction.

Solar Cells That Harvest Energy All Day Every Day

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One huge drawback of going solar is the fact that it only makes sense in areas which get abundant sunshine year-round. However, a team of scientists from China has now come up with a new solar cell, which can harvest energy even when it’s raining.

This solar cell is made using graphene, which has proven to be a very promising material for use in the production of solar cells in the past. One of these properties of graphene is its conductivity, which is such that it allows electrons to flow freely across its surface. So when this material is put into an aqueous solution, the so-called Lewis acid-base reaction occurs, namely that pairs of positively charged ions bind with the material’s negatively charged electrons. Studying this property of graphene, the team developed a solar cell, which can generate power from raindrops.

Raindrops are comprised of various salts, which have positively and negatively charged ions. So when rainwater hits graphene the positive ions bind with the negative ions on its surface. Where the rainwater and graphene come into contact, they form a double-layer of electrons and positively-charged ions, which creates a so-called pseudocapacitor. The two layers thus have a difference in potential, which is sufficient to generate a voltage and current.

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The scientists have produced a prototype dye-sensitized solar cell and applied a thin film of graphene to it. They tested this cell in a lab, using salty water made to closely resemble rain. The cell they tested successfully generated hundreds of microvolts and had the solar to electricity conversion efficiency of 6.5 percent. Their next step will be to further refine the cell, and they are confident that they will succeed in creating a market-ready all-weather solar cell soon.

A Smart Tiny Home

Generally, tiny homes are all about going back to the basics, meaning they don’t feature a lot of modern, cutting edge technology. But Covo Tiny House Company has changed all that with their new model, the so-called Covo Mio tiny home. The latter features lots of smart tech, including lighting that can be controlled with a smartphone app, a smart door lock, and an Amazon Echo.

The Covo Mio rests atop a 26 ft (7.9 m)-long double-axle trailer and measures a modest 330 sq ft (30 sq m). It also has a cleverly positioned storage compartment, which is attached to the rear of the house. Most of the interior space is taken up by the lounge, kitchen and dining area. The sitting area features a sofa and a TV, while the kitchen is equipped with a stainless steel cooktop and oven, as well as a 7 ft (2.1 m)-long breakfast bar, which serves as the main eating space. The tiny home also features a bathroom, which is fitted with a toilet and a shower.

The home also features two lofts, one that is intended to be used as the master bedroom, and the second for storage. Both are accessible via a ladder. The tiny home also features ample glazing, which lets in plenty of natural daylight and aids ventilation.

The basic model is being sold for $59,999 and features all of the above. But what differentiates this tiny home from others on the market are the high-end smart technology features which are available as an upgrade. These include LED lighting throughout, a Schlage Z-Wave door lock, and a Bluetooth sound system, which are all connected to a Wink Hub and can be controlled with a dedicated smartphone app. Optional upgrades also include an efficient mini-split heating-and-cooling unit, a Nest thermostat, USB charging ports, an Amazon Echo, a 50-inch TV, and a sitting/standing working desk. The home features a standard RV hookup for electricity, while an off-the-grid package is also available, and includes a solar power system and a composting toilet.

These extras, along with other upgrades such as a walnut butcher block countertop, raise the price of this home up to roughly $100,000.

An Awesome Bus to a Home Conversion

We’ve seen a lot of great conversions of buses and vans into mobile homes lately, and this latest one, completed by Charles Kern of Art Builders Guild is no exception. Charles is actually a professional bus homebuilder and he built this one for himself a couple of years ago. It’s called The Queen, and he built it as a full-time home for himself while he was still a 20-year old philosophy student. The Queen was created out of a 1982 Bluebird Bus with an International Harvester chassis. While still in operation, she was a rural district school bus, and then a youth group bus for the Queen of Peace Catholic Parish, hence the name.

Looking at just the interior, one would never guess this is actually a bus. Charles added wood paneling to the interior walls, which together with the large windows creates a very cozy interior space. The cabinets are also made of wood, which was, for the most part, reclaimed from demolition sites in the Denver area. The wood that was used to line the ceiling comes from trees that were felled by fire mitigation crews fighting the pine beetle infestation in the forests of Colorado. The bus also features a raised roof, which gives more headroom, and makes the interior appear more spacious.

The bus is very energy-efficient and can be taken off-the-grid. It features an 1875-watt solar array on the roof, which is capable of harvesting enough power to provide electricity for the water heater, all daily needs, and even the AC. The kitchenette is fitted with a propane stove, while the bus also features a 46-gallon freshwater tank.

The bathroom is fitted with a small shower, and a composting toilet that only has to be emptied every 6 to 8 weeks. Charles is careful to only use biodegradable soaps for washing, so that the greywater that is collected only needs the most basic of filtration processes to be reusable. The bedroom is located at the back of the bus, and features a Murphy-style bed which is folded up during the day.

It was the conversion of The Queen that led Charles, along with two friends, to go into the business of converting buses into homes for other people. They have completed 6 so far and have a couple more in the works.

Tiny Home for an Artist

The Utah-based firm Alpine Tiny Homes recently completed another interesting tiny house build, which is a home and a studio rolled into one. The so-called Artist can run completely off-the-grid, and is the full-time home for a mom and her 12-year old son.

The Artist rests atop a triple axle trailer and is 28 ft (8.5 m) long. It features tongue and groove siding, with sparse metal accents. The total interior floorspace is just 280 sq ft (26 sq m), which is quite modest for two, but in this case, it works. The home features bamboo flooring and countertops made of beetle kill pine.

Most of the ground floor is taken up by the living room and kitchen, which has a breakfast bar that serves as the main dining area. The kitchen is quite spacious, and features full-sized appliances, plenty of storage space, and a copper sink. The bathroom is fitted with a bath and shower, a composting toilet, and a sink, which is also copper.

The main bedroom is in a loft, in the gooseneck (raised) area of the trailer and is accessible by a storage-integrated staircase. The bedroom is separated from the rest of the space by a sliding door, which offers privacy, while the headroom is quite generous here, with room enough to stand. The house got its name from the artist’s loft, which is located next to the master bedroom. The owner is an artist and uses it as her main working area. The son’s bedroom is in the second loft, which is also accessible by a set of stairs. The headroom here is not quite as generous as in the master bedroom, but is otherwise quite spacious.

The Artist features a roof-mounted 1.5 kW solar array, which is connected to a Goal Zero battery system and is enough to power the home around the clock, even in cloudy weather. The home also features a propane-powered oven and water heater.

The Artist cost $75,000 to purchase.