Building a home from alternative materials has become an appealing option for many people. These homes tend to be environmentally friendly, not only because they utilize recycled material but also because they are more energy efficient. This energy efficiency also means that by building an alternative house you will save on energy bills for years to come. In addition to saving on energy bills, the actual cost to build an eco-friendly home is often much less than building a conventional one. Here are four eco-friendly building ideas to consider:
Cob houses are built from an adobe-like mixture of straw, clay, and sand. An especially affordable option, cob houses can be built for only a few thousand dollars. This means that as long as you own some land outright, you can own a home mortgage-free for as long as you stay in the cob house.
The thick walls of cob houses radiate heat in the summer, and absorb heat in the winter, keeping your home comfortable year-round without the need to pay for heat or air conditioning. This directory lists cob builders as well as workshops where you can learn to build your own cob house.
House Built from Cargo Containers
For a sleek, industrial-looking alternative home, consider building a home from old shipping cargo containers for sale. Some proponents of the tiny house movement have made homes from a single shipping container, while larger homes have been made from multiple shipping containers stacked together.
Because cargo containers have to travel long distances, often while containing fragile and valuable goods, they are designed to be extremely durable. Refrigerated cargo containers also come with their own insulation. Some cargo containers have beautiful hardwood floors that just need to be sanded down and stained.
Straw Bale Houses
Straw bale homes are some of the most versatile alternative homes, ranging from humble cottages to two-story luxury homes. To build a straw bale house, a builder stacks bales of straw on top of each other and then covers the bales with a thick plaster.
Straw bale houses are surprisingly strong and durable, and are not the fire hazards you may assume. In fact, straw bale houses are as much as three times more fire resistant than traditional homes. The main benefits of straw bale homes are that they're very sustainable, as straw is readily available material, and they are also quite energy efficient. Straw homes tend to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer, without the need for artificial heating or cooling.
You can see a wide variety of straw bale homes here, demonstrating their true versatility.
Earth ships are houses made completely from recycled material and packed earth. The main structure is typically built from tires filled with packed earth and then encased in steel, making earth ship houses very strong and solid structurally. Sometimes the interior walls are made from smaller "bricks" made of recycled aluminum cans that are filled with and surrounded by more packed earth.
Generally the south-facing side of the house has windows, which bring in sunlight and warmth in the winter. The north-facing side is normally built into the earth, providing natural insulation and cooling in the summer. Earth ships stay a pretty consistently comfortable temperature year-round. Most earth ships also incorporate solar power in order to be as efficient as possible. Earth ships are known for their artistic, slightly surreal designs, in some cases looking like space ships or even Hobbit houses.
Whichever of these four options you decide to go with, your eco-friendly, alternative home will save you money while helping you do your part to protect the environment.