Chelsea Green Publishing

The New Ecological Home

eBook: 9781603580847
Pub. Date May 30, 2004

The New Ecological Home

A Complete Guide to Green Building Options

Building & Energy

Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
May 30, 2004

$35.00 $28.00

Shelter, like many other elements of human existence, comes at an extraordinary cost to our planet and its inhabitants. In the U.S. alone, construction of 1.2 million new homes a year results in a massive drain on Earth's natural resource base. Today, nearly 60 percent of all timber cut in the U.S. is used in building houses, not to mention construction wastes and the huge amounts of resources used in the day-to-day operation of the "modern" household. In addition to environmental costs, there are the personal economic costs—the thousands of dollars each homeowner spends each year to heat, cool, and power our homes.

Today, a new generation of architects and builders is emerging, intent on creating homes that meet human needs for shelter while causing only a fraction of the environmental impact of conventional housing. The New Ecological Home provides an overview of green building techniques, materials, products, and technologies that are either currently available or will be in the near future. Author Daniel Chiras provides a wealth of up-to-date, practical information for home buyers, owner-builders, and anyone interested in building for a sustainable future. Included are chapters on:

  • The Healthy House
  • Green Building Materials
  • Wood-Wise Construction
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Earth-Sheltered Architecture
  • Passive Solar Heating and Passive Cooling
  • Green Power: Electricity from the Sun and Wind
  • Water and Waste: Sustainable Approaches
  • Environmental Landscaping


Daniel D. Chiras

Dan Chiras paid his last electric bill in June of 1996. It is not that he has disavowed the use of electricity and modern conveniences, but rather that he has turned to the sun and wind to meet his family's needs.

In 1995, Dan, a former full-time college professor with years of experience in sustainable development, built a state-of-the-art rammed earth tire and straw bale home in Evergreen, Colorado. He installed solar electric panels on the roof; a year or so later he installed a small wind generator. Since that time, he has met nearly all of his electrical needs for his home and office from these clean, renewable sources.

Dan also heats his home in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains 8000-feet above sea level with energy from the sun thanks to passive solar design. For backup heat on those cold winter nights, he burns a cord of wood a year, gathered free from his community. His annual gas bill, mostly for showers and cooking, runs about $120 a year - about $2 to $3 per month for natural gas and $10 per month to read the meter!

Dan has spent much of the past 30 years studying sustainability and applying what he has learned in solar energy, natural building, and green building to his residences, and most of the last ten years sharing the practical knowledge he has gained through writing, lectures, slide shows, and workshops.

Dan has published 21 books to date including several college and high school textbooks: Environmental Science: Creating a Sustainable Future, Natural Resource Conservation, Human Biology, and Biology: The Web of Life. His high school environmental science text, Environmental Science, was selected as the official book of the U.S. Academic Decathlon's 1991 competition.

In the early 1990s, Dan published two trade books on environmental issues and sustainability for a general audience: Beyond the Fray: Reshaping America's Response and Lessons from Nature: Learning to Live Sustainably on the Earth.

Since 1995, Dan has focused most of his attention on residential green building. He has written extensively on the subject. His is books include: The Natural House: A Complete Guide to Healthy, Energy Efficient, Environmental Homes; The Natural Plaster Book; The Solar House: Passive Heating and Cooling; Superbia! 31 Ways to Create Sustainable Suburbs; and The New Ecological Home.

His newest book, EcoKids: Raising Kids Who Care for the Earth will be published in the Spring of 2005 by New Society Publishers.

Dan also writes extensively for magazines, journals, newsletters, and newspapers. He has published nearly 250 articles on environmental issues, sustainability, natural building, natural plaster, green building, and passive solar heating and cooling. His articles appear regularly in Home Power, Mother Earth News, Natural Home, and The Last Straw.

Dan also writes frequently for World Book Encyclopedia (Science Year) and Encyclopedia Americana. He authored a 12-page article on the environment for Encyclopedia Americana. Dan has written environmental pollution section for World Book Encyclopedia's annual publication, Science Year, since 1993. In 1997, he wrote an extensive piece for World Book on population growth and its many implications. Dan also wrote the ecology and air pollution sections for Encyclopedia Americana.

In addition to his writing, Dan has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado in Denver and the University of Colorado at Denver. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Washington, where he taught a course on environmental science. He currently is a Melon Visiting Professor at Colorado College where he teaches courses on renewable energy, ecological design, and sustainable development.

Through his writing and teaching in the 1980s and early 1990s, Dan played a leading role in promoting critical thinking, an understanding of the root causes of environmental issues, systemic solutions to environmental problems, sustainable development. He pioneered a systems approach to sustainable development and has played a lead role in articulating the principles, policies, and practices of sustainable development which seeks ways that business and society can prosper within a healthy environment. He is currently focusing most of his research and writing on sustainable building and sustainable communities.

Dan's free time is spent mountain biking, canoeing, playing music, and gardening.

For more information visit


The Solar House

The Solar House

By Daniel D. Chiras

Passive solar heating and passive cooling—approaches known as natural conditioning—provide comfort throughout the year by reducing, or eliminating, the need for fossil fuel. Yet while heat from sunlight and ventilation from breezes is free for the taking, few modern architects or builders really understand the principles involved.

Now Dan Chiras, author of the popular book The Natural House, brings those principles up to date for a new generation of solar enthusiasts.

The techniques required to heat and cool a building passively have been used for thousands of years. Early societies such as the Native American Anasazis and the ancient Greeks perfected designs that effectively exploited these natural processes. The Greeks considered anyone who didn't use passive solar to heat a home to be a barbarian!

In the United States, passive solar architecture experienced a major resurgence of interest in the 1970s in response to crippling oil embargoes. With grand enthusiasm but with scant knowledge (and sometimes little common sense), architects and builders created a wide variety of solar homes. Some worked pretty well, but looked more like laboratories than houses. Others performed poorly, overheating in the summer because of excessive or misplaced windows and skylights, and growing chilly in the colder months because of insufficient thermal mass and insulation and poor siting.

In The Solar House, Dan Chiras sets the record straight on the vast potential for passive heating and cooling. Acknowledging the good intentions of misguided solar designers in the past, he highlights certain egregious—and entirely avoidable—errors. More importantly, Chiras explains in methodical detail how today's home builders can succeed with solar designs.

Now that energy efficiency measures including higher levels of insulation and multi-layered glazing have become standard, it is easier than ever before to create a comfortable and affordable passive solar house that will provide year-round comfort in any climate.

Moreover, since modern building materials and airtight construction methods sometimes result in air-quality and even toxicity problems, Chiras explains state-of-the-art ventilation and filtering techniques that complement the ancient solar strategies of thermal mass and daylighting. Chiras also explains the new diagnostic aids available in printed worksheet or software formats, allowing readers to generate their own design schemes.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

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The Solar House

Daniel D. Chiras

Paperback $29.95


Serious Straw Bale

Serious Straw Bale

By Paul Lacinski and Michel Bergeron

In 1994, when Chelsea Green published The Straw Bale House, the response from many people was a loud, "Huh?!"

Those days are gone. With more than 100,000 copies sold, and straw bale projects underway in most regions of North America, we've entered a new era. Even building-code officials and insurance companies now look favorably upon straw bale buildings, with their extraordinary energy efficiency and wise use of agricultural waste for construction materials.

Bergeron and Lacinski's new book Serious Straw Bale is the first to look carefully at the specific design considerations critical to success with a straw bale building in more extreme climates-where seasonal changes in temperature, precipitation, and humidity create special stresses that builders must understand and address. The authors draw upon years of experience with natural materials and experimental techniques, and present a compelling rationale for building with straw-one of nature's most resilient, available, and affordable byproducts.

For skeptics and true believers, this book will prove to be the latest word.

  • Thorough explanations of how moisture and temperature affect buildings in seasonal climates, with descriptions of the unique capacities of straw and other natural materials to provide warmth, quiet, and comfort year-round.
  • Comprehensive comparison of the two main approaches to straw bale construction: "Nebraska-style," where bales bear the weight of the roof, and framed structures, where bales provide insulation.
  • Detailed advice-including many well-considered cautions-for contractors, owner-builders, and designers, following each stage of a bale-building process.

This is a second-generation straw bale book, for those seeking serious information to meet serious challenges while adventuring in the most fun form of construction to come along in several centuries.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

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Serious Straw Bale

Paul Lacinski, Michel Bergeron

Paperback $34.95

The New Net Zero

The New Net Zero

By Bill Maclay

The new threshold for green building is not just low energy, it’s net-zero energy. In The New Net Zero, sustainable architect Bill Maclay charts the path for designers and builders interested in exploring green design’s new frontier net-zero-energy structures that produce as much energy as they consume and are carbon neutral.

 In a nation where traditional buildings use roughly 40 percent of the total fossil energy, the interest in net-zero building is growing enormously–among both designers interested in addressing climate change and consumers interested in energy efficiency and long-term savings. Maclay, an award-winning net-zero designer whose buildings have achieved high-performance goals at affordable costs, makes the case for a net-zero future; explains net-zero building metrics, integrated design practices, and renewable energy options; and shares his lessons learned on net-zero teambuilding.

Designers and builders will find a wealth of state-of-the-art information on such considerations as air, water, and vapor barriers; embodied energy; residential and commercial net-zero standards; monitoring and commissioning; insulation options; costs; and more.

The comprehensive overview is accompanied by several case studies, which include institutional buildings, commercial projects, and residences.  Both new-building and renovation projects are covered in detail. 

The New Net Zero is geared toward professionals exploring net-zero design, but also suitable for nonprofessionals seeking ideas and strategies on net-zero options that are beautiful and renewably powered.

Available in: Hardcover

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The New Net Zero

Bill Maclay

Hardcover $90.00

Do It Yourself 12 Volt Solar Power, 2nd Edition

Do It Yourself 12 Volt Solar Power, 2nd Edition

By Michael Daniek

If you want to introduce alternative power supplies around the home and garden or even live totally off-grid in your boat, caravan, or yurt and need a practical introduction to solar power and 12-volt supplies, here is an essential guide to the subject.

Not only will it save you money, it will show you how to run your lights, laptop, DVDs, and music, and even your tools and household products, from a simple 12-volt system. Be in control of more of your home’s own energy supply, develop a low-impact way of living, and be prepared for power outages in the future!

Do It Yourself 12 Volt Solar Power begins with a lesson on how electricity works and the main components of a DIY solar system. The author uses clear diagrams and terms. There is, of course, more technical information as the book progresses, but don’t worry, this no-nonsense guide provides a useful, back-to-basics approach for the layperson.

This is a reference book that will help you troubleshoot and get the best value for money from what you can find hidden in the back of the garage. It is also quirky and humorous and shows you how to make a sun-following system using just a bicycle wheel, a pallet, and the motor from a CD player!

Available in: Paperback

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Do It Yourself 12 Volt Solar Power, 2nd Edition

Michael Daniek

Paperback $14.95

Power from the People

Power from the People

By Greg Pahl

Over 90 percent of US power generation comes from large, centralized, highly polluting, nonrenewable sources of energy. It is delivered through long, brittle transmission lines, and then is squandered through inefficiency and waste. But it doesn't have to be that way. Communities can indeed produce their own local, renewable energy.

Power from the People explores how homeowners, co-ops, nonprofit institutions, governments, and businesses are putting power in the hands of local communities through distributed energy programs and energy-efficiency measures.

Using examples from around the nation - and occasionally from around the world - Greg Pahl explains how to plan, organize, finance, and launch community-scale energy projects that harvest energy from sun, wind, water, and earth. He also explains why community power is a necessary step on the path to energy security and community resilience - particularly as we face peak oil, cope with climate change, and address the need to transition to a more sustainable future.

This book - the second in the Chelsea Green Publishing Company and Post Carbon Institute's Community Resilience Series - also profiles numerous communitywide initiatives that can be replicated elsewhere.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

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Power from the People

Greg Pahl, Van Jones

Paperback $19.95