Every day the sun generates inestimable luminescent rays. Wind echoes over all the world’s terrain. Water flows through the rivers and oceans. Renewable energy is all around us and many believe it is the wave of the future.

There are eco-friendly homes beginning to gain popularity and appear more frequently throughout Naples-area communities that take advantage of renewable energy.

NHS students from Clifford Greer’s Civil Engineering class recently visited a sustainable home on a field trip. Jim Henderson of JLH Sustainable Housing came to Naples High as a guest speaker and invited them to come visit a sustainable house in the construction stage. The house they visited is fully sustainable, meaning it relies on solar energy for all of its energy needs. 

“Sustainability is living your life in such a way that you leave resources behind for the next generation,” APES/Biology 1 Honors teacher Amy Lawson said. “We all need to do that; we don’t need to be using it all up for ourselves.”

Sustainable homes, like the one in East Naples, are designed and engineered very differently than conventional houses. However, from the outside it can be hard to pick out the sustainable home in a neighborhood.

“I’m surprised about how it blended in with the neighborhood, as it was built pretty differently than anything else that was around it,” Greer said. “You couldn’t tell from looking at the surrounding area, and the new house that was there.”

Civil Engineering student Molly Foley went on the field trip as well, and she agrees that the design of the house was very different than a normal home.

“It’s a very interesting design because the roof is sloped,” Foley said. “It’s very modern.”

However, the unique design was created for a purpose: to more efficiently capture renewable solar energy. What else makes the home at 213 Benson Street sustainable?

“The biggest aspect is that the structures are almost 100 percent recycled steel,” Henderson said. “Additionally, the super insulation qualities of the IMP (Insulated Metal Panel) technology offer superior R value with less material and space.”

Henderson said that in addition to using recycled steel and specialized insulation, these technologies can achieve a negative carbon footprint. This means that there is more energy created than energy that is used.

This surplus energy does not go to waste. It can be stored in batteries and can even be put back into the electrical grid for the benefit of other homeowners.

Though sustainable housing and renewable energy have many advantages, there are still a few challenges to their adoption, both locally and abroad.

“There is the issue of where to store the energy when we’re creating it, so that we can use it at the times when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing strong,” Lawson said.

“The challenge in Naples, especially with affordable housing, is the cost for land,” Henderson said. “The challenges everywhere in the country lie mostly in having people think outside of conventional building.”

Henderson believes there are many disadvantages to conventional building. He says the abundance of wood used in more typical home construction attracts mold and bugs, while also reducing the earth’s ability to absorb CO2 emissions.

Cost can also be an important factor when considering whether to buy a conventional or sustainable house. However, sustainable housing also offers some advantages.

“The JLH home is engineered to be so efficient; the cost for the solar panels is about half the cost for power on a conventional house,” Henderson said.

Foley says that she might consider buying a sustainable home in the future. She also said that she can apply the knowledge she gained from the field trip to projects in her engineering class.

Greer said that the trip was purposely scheduled because his students are all designing their own houses. 

“They all need to come up with some type of green building or a sustainable process that would be environmentally friendly,” Greer said.

Sustainability is a term that may be talked about more frequently in the coming years, as people around the world unite to take the stride towards a cleaner Earth and grapple with the availability of certain resources.

“You’re going to be tasked with the issue of trying to figure out how we can power our planet and what other ways we can find to do that, because fossil fuels aren’t going to be there forever,” Greer said.

With the Earth’s supply of fossil fuels depleting, many feel that it is time to turn to alternative and renewable sources of energy as soon as possible.

“With climate change being a reality, the need to adopt better sustainable practices cannot wait for us to slowly get used to the new building concepts,” Henderson said. “It is something that needs to be done now.”