Eco Cottages

For the past few years, lifestyle and travel circles have taken notice of eco cottages—a new class of dwellings that offer eco-friendly features in a chic, stylish package. From floor to ceiling, they make use of natural products and run entirely, or almost entirely, on clean energy. The idea is that comfort and aesthetic don’t have to take a backseat to environmental consciousness. In an eco cottage, one can live the good life without the guilt.

The first eco cottages were built, understandably, in touristy cities known for their strong environmental thrust. Developers in Australia, the U.K., and Canada have long been working on eco-friendly homes. The designs first cropped up in hotels and exclusive communities, then more and more into residential areas. Features such as solar panels and energy-efficient windows were especially popular as “eco luxury” perks before they went mainstream.

Eco cottages run along the same lines, except that they appeal to more than just green thumbs. More and more, designers are making it so that even strictly in terms of style and practicality, eco cottages can hold their own alongside world-class accommodations. Although they tend to be smaller, smart interior design and usually good locations make them just as sleek and comfortable as five-star hotels.

Most eco cottages are built in modular styles in which prefabricated parts are fitted together. This makes for a faster and thus more energy-efficient way to build. It’s also a “portable” method, meaning it can be carried out in any setting: urban or rural, warm or cold, highland or lowland. Of course, since there are fewer work hours involved, it also ends up cheaper for the end buyer—a typical cottage can go for about $50,000, the price of an entry-level RV. Developers are also starting to rent them out as an eco-friendly alternative to hotels, especially in less-trodden areas (such as small villages and rainforests).

Needless to say, energy consumption is what sets eco cottages apart. They are built to use natural light and cooling as much as possible, with ample windows and naturally insulating materials. The best eco houses are almost self-efficient and self-sustaining. Parts that do require electricity, such as heating and night-time lighting, make use of solar or wind energy (the latter is often for more demanding appliances such as dishwashers and audio systems). For heating, there are usually combined water heating and heat recovery systems, which cut down energy consumption by almost half.

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