No Ordinary House in the Mountains

Winding through the Wicklow Mountains with the sun glistening off the peaks of green shaded hilltops, I could not stop staring. Known as the “Garden of Ireland”, the landscape was glowing and nearly alive with the abundance of trees and creeks. The car started to slow down as we entered a small village. Passing the primary school, the pub and finally reaching a dirt track leading to two houses. We pulled into the second drive way with a two-story house a few meters back.

The car with a researcher and retired couple in the backseat had arrived to the party. The occasion was for a get together with alumni of my undergraduate institution. However, the main attraction was a tour of no ordinary house. This house, designed by the host, was built with the environment in mind. A certified “passive house” the building uses low energy and leaves a very small carbon footprint. From determining the direction of the house to collecting rainwater, the house was designed, constructed and continues to operate with impressive sustainability practices.

Knowing very little about sustainability construction and operation in residential areas, I found the tour of this house to be fascinating. Everything was thoroughly analyzed and carefully executed. The walls stuffed with insulation were centimeters thick to keep hot air out in summer, and keep it inside during colder months. A machine tracked and monitored all airflow that would adjust certain variables to maintain a comfortable and healthy environment in the home. It reminded me of Smart House, a childhood movie I would frequently watch in my earlier years. The tour ended with one of the biggest incentives for having a sustainable home: cost savings. Aside from its numerous environmental benefits, the money saved by the homeowner was outstanding. Despite additional construction costs and maintaining the various systems, it was already saving him money on energy and water bills.

This innovative spirit exists beyond the Wicklow Mountains. Talking with my friends at Maynooth University, it is clear that sustainability is on the mind of engineers and social scientists. From students studying law to product design, sustainability issues are important not only in the operation of business and government but a vested interest for a bright future.

Ireland is already making huge strides in addressing sustainability issues and leaving a greener planet for future generations. Ireland’s Department of Education and Skills has outlined an ambitious goal of integrating sustainability in its curriculum and provide opportunities to become leaders in this field. Ireland also has strong recycling programs in many urban and rural areas. Ireland is already green, and with these actions, it will maintain its viridescent hue for years to come.

To learn more about the house, visit

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