The home as an ecosystem

An ecosystem consists of the biological community that occurs in some locale, and the physical and chemical factors that make up its non living or abiotic environment. Within an ecosystem, any change of one part affects the other components.

It may seem strange to think of a home as an ecosystem but modern housing is a relatively new way of viewing the home environment. Previously, people instinctively worked with their local environment by using local material and housing design which was appropriate for the local conditions; for example traditional tropical houses were raised platform housing made of wood whilst earth and turf covered houses were more common in cold and dry climates. In fact the word ecosystem comes from a combination of the word ecology and system with ecology rooted in the Greek word Oikos, meaning house.

Stilt house at Kaliobo, Aklan, Philippines. 

When thinking of a house as an ecosytem we must consider it’s inputs and outputs; and how these are maintained to ensure a delicate balance through dynamic equilibrium. Inputs include electricity, light and water which are directly or indirectly derived from the Sun and the planets water cycle. Outputs include water, heat and waste.

Often, in modern housing, our outputs are polluted, the external ecosystem can help us with this but again there must be balance, for example waste materials can take much longer to break down then they do to be produced which is one of the strains we are putting on the planet. However by minimising our inputs, or by choosing sustainable sources we can minimise the affects from our home ecosystem.



Written by TreeThinker

Passionate about the Earth and those who inhabit it. An engineer (BEng (Hons), MSEE) from Oxfordshire, UK, specialising in designing for a sustainable future. A member of the Society of Environmental Engineers and a keen environmental advocate who volunteers for several grass roots sustainability groups. I work full time as a project manager for a renewable energy company based in Oxford and also run ‘TreeThinker’ (; converting previous pasture land into a rich permaculture farm growing produce for sale locally. I deliver workshops on sustainable living, including building renewable energy technologies, as well as workshops for schools discussing 'Energy as a resource' amongst other topics. I am qualified in ‘Information, advice and guidance’ (level 4) and experienced at teaching practical skills. I'm also a keen cyclist and have a love of wordplay - writing a blog on etymology (

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