Top Eco-Friendly Building and Home Renovation Trends of 2023

Eco-friendly alternatives continue to gain traction in just about every space including home renovation and construction. See how you can incorporate these “green” trends into your next home renovation project.

The type of siding, the color of your roof, the number of bathrooms, the location of outlets–there are hundreds of decisions to make when building or remodeling a home, including how it will impact the environment.

As homeowners and builders have become more conscious of how their decisions affect the greater good, a focus on eco-friendly and “green” construction alternatives has emerged.

These eco-friendly methods in home renovation and construction are trending today and, more importantly, are here to stay.

How Can Construction Be Environmentally Friendly?

By choosing sustainable materials and reducing the carbon impact of your construction activities, your project will be considered environmentally friendly.

Opt for materials that are locally sourced or utilize green manufacturing practices. Limiting the machinery and labor needed to build your project will also reduce the overall carbon impact.

Why Are People Opting For “Green” Remodeling Trends?

Homeowners choose eco-friendly remodeling options to reduce their carbon footprint in an effort to create a more sustainable, long-lasting environment for all.

Choosing energy-efficient, sustainable, and local-sourced materials when renovating your home is an environmentally-conscious decision.

The Most Popular Eco-Conscious Options For Home Improvement and Construction

Here are some of the most popular environmentally-friendly trends, currently, in home construction and renovations.

Container Homes

An eco-friendly take on the tiny home trend, container homes transform shipping containers into fully-functional and often stylish living spaces.

Container homes are built by joining together multiple steel or aluminum shipping containers that form the shell of the home.

From there, traditional building materials such as insulation, framing, and drywall build out the interior.

A No-Waste and Cost-Effective Solution for the Shipping Industry

Since returning a shipping container to its original location typically costs more than purchasing a new one, these containers are often abandoned after the product inside is delivered.

Container homes provide an opportunity to upcycle abandoned shipping containers and instead produce a sustainable place to live.

Reduced Cost, Faster Build, and Customizable

Because shipping containers already provide the structure and framework a builder needs for a home, it saves significant time that traditional framing and foundations would take to build from scratch.

Containers can also be placed adjacent and even stacked on top in various ways that make them fully customizable.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Container Homes
Cost effective way to build a homeShipping container could house harmful chemicals or gas, have this checked before purchasing
Providing use for abandoned shipping container that may otherwise hinder nearby environmentShipping containers are smaller when compared to traditional homes
Steel or aluminum exterior of shipping container is durable
Matt Ward
Matt Ward
Realtor and Team Lead of The Matt Ward Group
What is the current top trend for eco-friendly building and design that you are seeing?
You might be surprised to know that the heating and cooling system of a building is responsible for almost 40% of its entire energy consumption. Passive design takes advantage of the lighting and surrounding climate to ensure a comfortable temperature for the building. The most common methods are using optimal construction materials, shading, orientation, & envelope design that lead to passive heating and cooling.

Modular Construction

Modular construction is a method of construction that involves building a piece of a project offsite and then bringing it on-site to be installed.

When constructing residential houses, these sections built offsite are typically roof trusses or a portion of a framed wall.

While this method is not new to the construction industry, the capabilities of modular construction continue to improve in creating a more efficient project.

Modular construction can also be implemented on a large scale, with entire homes being built offsite and then transported to their final destination in just a few separate pieces.

It's becoming an increasingly popular home and building construction method for both large developers and individual homeowners.

Modular Homes Reduce Consumption

The manufacturing facility where these building sections are constructed is able to optimize their processes by using the best equipment and technology available.

This offsite prefabrication requires significantly less labor.

As the facility improves its procedures, they will reduce the amount of waste generated that would ultimately end up in a landfill.

The total energy consumed during production will also be reduced over time.

Shorter Project Timeline Are a Major Advantage of Modular Construction

Producing large portions of a home offsite reduces the overall project timeline.

Contractors can plan ahead on the deliveries of these prefabricated sections to the site in an effort to install them quickly and efficiently.

With project timelines significantly reduced, fewer materials are used, and less energy is consumed resulting in a reduced carbon impact for the project.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Modular Construction
Reduction in waste and energy consumptionLimited customizations are available with mass-produced sections
Shorter project timelines contribute to a smaller carbon impact
Modular construction is often cheaper

Sourcing Eco-Friendly or Local Materials

An eco-friendly home is built with readily-available and abundant materials to ensure it has the smallest impact on the environment possible.

Readily-available materials are ones that are sourced locally and do not have to travel on multiple tractor-trailers before arriving at a distributor.

Abundant materials come from natural and sustainable resources. Ideally, these materials can be quickly reproduced with a limited carbon impact.

Sustainably-sourced materials are a fast-growing trend in home construction parts and not only cut down on greenhouse gases but also lead time on projects because of faster and cheaper delivery windows.

Accessible Eco-Friendly Materials
BambooFlooring or countertops
Sheep’s WoolInsulation in walls
ConcreteWalls, foundations, patio slabs, or countertops
Plant-Based Rigid FoamInsulation in walls

How Incorporating “Green” Finishes Helps the Environment

Organic and natural-looking materials are currently a trending design choice that bodes well for the environment. Elements such as bamboo flooring and reclaimed wood accents make a beautiful (and sustainable) statement.

Concrete holds its own as an industrial design choice and works well as either flooring or countertops.

The raw materials in concrete are either naturally occurring or waste byproducts of manufacturing.

Sourcing Materials Locally-Produced Cuts Down Carbon Emissions

The transportation industry levies a substantial carbon impact.

A vast network of planes, trains, and trucks provide goods throughout the country while also burning fuel and increasing emissions.

In an effort to reduce the carbon impact of your project, opt for locally sourced materials.

Whether it is stone harvested at a local quarry or lumber produced at a local mill, these materials will reach your project in a much “greener” way.

It's also important to remember, as previously stated, that delivery charges should be cheaper considering lower fuel charges, plus faster lead times for your project as it won't take as long to get your materials to you.

Energy-Efficient Products and Home Systems

The first few versions of any product are built simply to function.

As time progresses, these items continue to be optimized and improved upon. The products in your home are no different.

Appliances and building systems from the 80s and 90s simply do not compete with products on the market today.

These older machines consume much more water and/or energy to complete essential day-to-day functions.

They do usually cost more than conventional products, but savings in utilities sometimes can offset these initial investment costs over time.

Developers and house flippers prefer, whenever budgets allow, to install energy-efficient systems and building materials because it adds extra real estate value to the home or apartment and increases the appeal for home buyers and renters.

Installing Efficient Systems Saves Energy and Cost

Energy-efficient products, such as appliances, lighting, HVAC systems, and water heaters, are now designed to produce more with less.

By utilizing less energy-intensive technologies, modern home systems require less power.

Consider upgrading your dated systems with the latest, energy-efficient version.

The following are popular ways to save on energy costs:

  • Energy-Star Rated Appliances
  • Tankless Water Heaters
  • LED & CFL Light Fixtures
  • Energy-Star Rated HVAC Systems

Use High-Performing Building Materials Also Saves on Energy Usage

In addition to appliances and systems that can operate more efficiently, you outfit your home with building materials that will enhance performance.

Use Energy-Star-rated windows and doors along with spray foam insulation to create a robust building envelope that will allow your HVAC system to perform most efficiently.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Energy Efficient Products
Using energy-efficient products in your home can reduce your energy billsUpgrading to energy-efficient products comes at a price
Government grants are sometimes available to subsidize the cost of installing energy-efficient products and renewable energy sources
Benjamin Stenson
Benjamin Stenson
CEO, The Norsemen Home Remodeling
What exciting innovations in green building design can we expect to see in the next 3-5 years?
Terra cotta tiles are an excellent innovation in green building designs, and I believe they will gain immense popularity within the next 3 - 5 years. These tiles are made from the earth and create zero waste. They are 100% recyclable, energy-efficient, and free of toxic and synthetic ingredients. Additionally, terra cotta tiles do not need any chemical cleaning, thus protecting the environment from harmful runoff.

Recycled, Reclaimed, Repurposed Materials

Eco-friendly construction is all about reducing your impact.

One of the growing popular ways is using recycled, reclaimed, or repurposed materials is a great alternative to buying new.

Items such as cabinets and windows can easily be cleaned, painted, and given a new life, ensuring they avoid the dreaded trip to a landfill.

Donate them to a local building supply co-op if you are remodeling and have materials worthy of another installation.

Generally, when items are dismantled or stripped from one construction, saving reusable parts and reselling has become a big business.

Architectural salvage includes both contemporary materials and fixtures as well as vintage and antique salvage, stripped from historic homes or buildings.

Likewise, reclaimed wood is a booming earth-friendly business.

Many homeowners, contractors, and builders look for reclaimed wood in good condition as this wood usually has much more character and beauty than brand new wood.

More importantly, there is no emerging market of new and improved materials made of post-consumer recycled products or by-products of other industries that are used in home construction.

In many cases, these materials are not just cheaper to produce but often use less energy and waste output and are usually superior or stronger than conventional materials.

Notable Recycled Materials Used in Home Construction
Composite Roofing TilesMade of recycled paper products, plastics, and hemp. Sometimes fiberglass or asphalt are also added in. Composite roof tiles are more durable than asphalt shingles and can mimic the appearance of other natural tiles and shingles.
Fiberglass Batting InsulationMade entirely of post-consumer recycled glass, using minimal energy and no-waste process. Easy for DIYers to install into their homes.
TimbercreteTraditional concrete alternative made of cement, sand, and recycled timber cellulose. Environmentally-friendly, lower cost, more durable and versatile, lighter, and thermally efficient.
AshcreteAnother alternative to traditional concrete. 97% made of fly ash which is a by-product of coal combustion. Low-energy with less water, and less permeability.
Recycled SteelSteel is melted and combined with recycled components. Most steel made in the US for construction contains recycled steel.
Reclaimed WoodSourced from older buildings and houses. Reclaimed wood has aesthetic appeal and reduces the use of new lumber.

What Systems and Materials to Reuse

Cabinets, doors, windows, appliances, sinks, toilets, tubs, and fixtures are all things that can be repurposed in another home.

Oftentimes, you can find these used items at a very reasonable price or even for free.

Building materials can also be reused if they are properly removed from their previous home and still intact.

Materials such as lumber, tile, and some flooring can be installed exactly as the new version would.

Repurposing fixtures and materials can also be a great creative project for the avid DIY-er.

It might be fun to come up with different ideas when it comes to finding doors, windows, etc. in good condition and transforming them into a piece of furniture, fixture, or something decorative.

What Not to Reuse

Any item you are going to reuse needs to be functional. Cabinets should have hinges, appliances should turn on, and windows should open.

Items lacking these basic operations are often more work to fix than they are worth.

Lumber should be void of nails and any lead-based paints or coatings.

Keep in mind that used materials will not have the same lifespan as a new materials would, so they may need to be replaced sooner than expected.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Recycled, Reclaimed, Repurposed Materials
Recycled materials are often cheaper and comes with other advantagesUsed materials will wear out quicker
Repurposing items avoids putting them in a landfillThere are unknowns regarding quality and durability when using recycled materials
Salvaged pieces can often be more interesting than brand new pieces.Newer materials made of recycled components may be less accessible because not as many people know about them

Renewable Or Sustainable Sources of Energy

Renewable energy sources are becoming more realistic options for the everyday consumer.

With Federal and state government grants, homeowners are able to get renewable energy equipment installed, such as solar, wind power, and even geothermal heating for a lower cost.

With the proper initial investment, these alternative energy sources will reduce your energy demand and could even make your residence self-sustainable.

Solar panels can be installed on your roof to harness heat from the sun, or geothermal heat pumps can be installed in the ground to harness heat from the earth.

Both options convert this heat to the energy available for everyday use.

Renewables are the way to go if you're considering an off-grid home.

Overlooked Sustainable Energy Sources

One of the oldest forms of sustainable energy is hydropower, which actually can be utilized today on a micro level to power individual homes and even communities.

Of course, your home or community should ideally be near a flowing body of water which is often not the case for those living in urban areas.

However, many communities in suburban and rural areas do have creeks and rivers across the country.

Most modern Americans use gas or electricity to heat their homes.

However, switching to a pellet appliance stove to heat your home instead of oil, gas, or electricity not only means switching to a more efficient, sustainable, and cleaner source of fuel but it means you save money as pellets are inexpensive.

This works best if you already have a chimney installed in your home.

Pellet stoves do not need to be fed regularly like wood-burning ones and just need to be loaded once for the specific number of hours you require heat, which could be as long as a 24-hour period.

These wood pellets are sourced from scrap wood and burn much more efficiently and cleaner than logs.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Renewable and Sustainable Energy
Saves money on energy costsSometimes high initial cost of installment
Federal and state incentives can help pay for installationSome renewable energy is limited by environmental factors, such as lack of sun, wind, or water flow and a backup energy source may be required.
Can raise the value of your home
Lee Calisti
Lee Calisti
Strategic Construction Advisor at Real Estate Bees
What are easy steps that homeowners and renters can take to make their homes more eco-friendly?
1. Replace all incandescent bulbs with LED replacements. 2. Use a programmable thermostat, especially a user-friendly version that includes setbacks and eco modes when the house is empty. (i.e., Google Nest) 3. When making extensive improvements, seek advice on ways to improve energy efficiency (windows, siding, insulation, HVAC systems) 4. Use your ventilation methods often (exhaust fans), change the furnace filters, open your windows for fresh air before turning on the air conditioning.

Smart Home Technology

Smart gadgets are nothing new to the home improvement industry, but the technology continues to advance year over year.

These technologies, from digital thermostats to remotely-operated heating systems, assist your home in efficient operation.

Along with integrating technology into the home, homeowners are interested in alternative energy sources for their personal properties to reduce their energy needs from the local power grid.

Remember, just like energy-efficient appliances and systems, adding smart home technology can also add to your home's value, and whenever possible, many home builders and renovators like to add these features to attract potential homebuyers.

Many homeowners and renters themselves like to install smart technology. Not only can they save on utilities, but newer interfaces are much easier and more convenient to operate.

Reduced Energy Consumption

Besides advanced control, energy efficiency is one of the biggest advantages of smart home technology.

Homeowners who embrace these smart devices see a reduction in their energy consumption and energy bills.

Smart thermostats keep your home temperature consistent while limiting the use of your HVAC system.

Smart lights turn off when rooms are unoccupied. Smart washers use just enough water based on the size of the load.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Smart Home Technology
Smart home technology can reduce your overall energy consumption and save you moneySmart home technology can be a costly initial investment
It can add to your home's value

Healthy Toxic-Free Homes

Home used to be where you would eat, sleep, and be with your family. Now, it is also where you work, learn, and do just about everything else.

Creating an optimal environment for all these activities requires putting health and safety at the forefront. A healthy home is a happy home.

Improving indoor air quality is high on the list for those spending more time at home.

Portable air purifiers have found their way into home offices and dining rooms converted to classrooms. Natural air purifiers, i.e. plants, are also a great addition to your home.

Often forgotten household maintenance tasks, like changing air filters and cleaning ductwork, have once again taken center stage. Removing the build-up of dust and allergens in your home supports keeping your household healthy.

Consider using natural, non-toxic cleaning products that are just as effective in removing dirt and bacteria as many common household cleaners, but are better on the eco- and immune system.

Look for products that avoid acetone, ammonia, or other harsh ingredients.

Read on: HVAC Systems Buying Guide: Which is the Best?

Advantages and Disadvantages of Toxic-Free Homes
Clean air ensures a healthier state of livingNon-toxic products are often more expensive
Clean air reduces risk of illnessAir purifiers and HVAC require regular maintenance and upkeep that can sometimes feel tedious
Using natural cleaning products emits fewer toxic chemicals into the environment

Future Building Trends

3D Printed Homes

From the moment 3D printing was invented, its possible applications have seemed endless in a large variety of fields including home construction.

And indeed, people started printing homes.

However, 3D printed homes are no longer the simple, square boxes that they used to be.

As 3D printing construction technology has adapted and grown. It is now a feasible (and eco-friendly) option in residential homebuilding.

These homes are constructed with very large 3D printers that place material for foundations, walls, or other building elements with a mechanical arm at a programmable location.

While we don't expect 3D printing to explode this year in the construction industry, it's definitely a growing trend and could plausibly be a popular way of building a home in the future.

Here are some reasons why.

Structures Get Built Faster With Reduced Labor Costs

3D printed homes are typically built out of concrete due to the flexibility of the material but can also be built out of plastic, soil, mortar, or recycled materials.

Building a home as efficiently as possible reduces the environmental impact.

That is the goal of 3D printed homes–building a structure quickly and affordably to decrease material, energy, and labor consumption.

The number of workers needed to build a home becomes minimal with 3D printing and a house can actually go up in less than a day

Incorporating eco-friendly and “green” trends into your next home improvement project is a responsive choice for the environment as a whole.

Whether you use sustainable materials or upgrade to energy-efficient appliances, each decision has a positive impact on the world around you.

Eco-friendly home remodeling and construction trends are here to stay and will continue to improve in an effort to become widely adopted.

Newer materials and better practices and methods are breaking ground in the home construction industry.

While transitioning an existing home or building a new home with these eco-friendly materials or methods sometimes have some added upfront costs, many of these make it cheaper and includes long-term savings for the average homeowner.

Brionna Farney
About the author
Brionna Farney has boots-on-the-ground experience managing construction projects and designing home renovations. Supported by her degree in Civil Engineering, Brionna uses her industry expertise to write about all things home-related for construction, home improvement, real estate, and interior design businesses.