Design & DIY

Are these the cottage building materials of the future?

A highway stretching out through the photo, with 2021-2025 written on it By atk work/Shutterstock

Cottages are often nods to the past—built by great-grandparents and renovated by generations since. But with increasing recognition that building materials do much more than shift an aesthetic—they boost energy-efficiency and overall comfort—it’s time to look ahead. Whether you’re starting from scratch, or addressing issues in an existing cottage, consider future-forward tech:

Reach for the top

Options range from simple (and affordable) reflective roof paints to more expensive solar shingles—or even a living roof of organic matter. What we put on top can have a big impact on how we keep our cottages cool. Learn more about it.

A rising tide floats all cottages

Could your cottage survive a flood? It might, if you adopt an old technology that’s finding new purpose. The Buoyancy Foundation Project, out of the University of Waterloo, has been studying amphibious construction. It works, says one researcher, the same way a rubber duckie works in your bathtub, but with a “vertical guidance system” so your cottage doesn’t simply float away. Learn more about it.

The butterfly (paint) effect

Keen to produce a beautiful paint without toxic dyes and pigments, researchers in Berkeley, California, found inspiration in the blue morpho butterfly’s incredible colour. The blue of the butterfly, they say, is produced by tiny overlapping microscopic scales arranged across the surface of the wing that reflect light. By achieving this structural colour in paint, researchers say, they can create a far safer (and more spectacular) coating. Learn more about it.

Bacteria-built brick

Concrete’s carbon footprint is the size of Sasquatch so alternatives are highly sought after. But a brick made of cyanobacteria, the same stuff that turns our beloved lakes green with algae? Yes, please, say the University of Colorado researchers, who insist there are no dangerous health effects from their bacteria, sand, and gelatin creations. What’s more, these bio bricks sequester carbon, effectively erasing concrete’s behemoth footprint. Learn more about it.

Whale-food windows

Nature is often way ahead of us in its problem solving. Consider krill, the tiny sea creatures that release a pigment in bright sunlight to protect themselves from ultraviolet rays. Windows in a University of Toronto lab got the krill treatment when researchers discovered they could similarly create a way to shut out the sun’s rays. Learn more about it.

A whole earth approach

If you’re starting from scratch, consider the earth-friendly techniques of the aptly named Earthship, rammed earth construction, or straw-bale. All beautiful, all sustainable, and all will be the talk of your cottage community. Learn more about it.

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