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Alternative housing options are growing. People are realizing they don’t have to live in traditional homes. Society is also becoming more aware of the environment.
A manufactured home leaves a bad carbon footprint on the environment. The long-lasting effects of traditional homes are not eco-friendly, and younger people are waking up to this idea.
When building a home, sustainable materials are a smart choice. Those who want to live off-grid can do so in style. Some people just want a cool place to live that’s also affordable. Today, there are plenty of options outside of the tiny house movement, and we’ll show you a few of them.
Alternative Housing Ideas
Here are 25 alternative housing ideas. Some might feel a little mainstream more than others, but all of them offer alternative living structures.
Cob is an ancient clay building material, similar to adobe, that uses materials like straw, sticks, and other fibrous materials mixed with subsoil, water. A cob home is made with lime, sand, or clay.
The material is ideal for home construction because it’s cheap, fire resistant, and can withstand earthquake damage.
It’s easy to mold and can be used to create houses that are curvy, thatched-roof style or more modern versions that look like a typical residence.
Because cob is easy to mix and manipulate, it’s an ideal material for people who want to build a small house with their own hands. Even those new to construction can learn to use this material quickly and easily.
Building with cob is like sculpting with clay and it can be augmented or reshaped even after it has dried.
Cob homes are weather resistant. The structures can withstand rain and cold temperatures, meaning their suitable for most cold climates.
These beehive-shaped homes are made of exactly what is in their name: bags of dirt. To say the material is easily obtained is an understatement, making this type of alternative housing especially cheap.
Plastic bags of earth are simply stacked to create walls that can be straight or curves. Often barbed wire is used in between the layers for extra stability and to keep the bags from shifting.
They can be built up tall to create a roof without the need for trusses or other supports. In addition, long tubular bags of soil are sometimes used, stacked up in coils to create another, sturdier variation.
Once finished, the outside is typically covered with some sort of plaster or adobe to preserve the bags holding the earth.
Straw Bale Home
From waste product to wonderful building material, straw bales are an excellent environmentally friendly building material. Besides being inexpensive, the straw is a very efficient insulator. The bales are plastered from both sides. Surprisingly, the homes are airtight, pest and fireproof.
Although they are still made of wood, log houses can be an eco-friendly type of alternative housing. The large logs don’t go through the milling and treatment process and are very good for energy efficiency. Studies have shown that logs absorb heat during the day, which helps keep the home warmer at night in the winter.
Greener options for wood stains and the chinking — the material that seals the gaps between logs — are now available, increasing the home’s sustainability factor. Last, but certainly not least, sometimes log homes can be built from dead trees instead of using living trees.
Does an underground home appeal to you? These underground homes — also called earth-sheltered houses — are energy-efficient and environmentally friendly options. The low profile also means they are safer from hurricanes and tornadoes, as well as soundproof. Those who build these homes and also use solar panels could potentially eliminate most utility expenses.
Underground homes are no longer relegated to childhood dreams. The home style is becoming a reality. Taking the concept of the earth-sheltered house a step further, underground homes go completely below the surface.
The houses are protected from storms and inclement weather. They have eco friendly benefits along with temperature control features. The front faces outward and offers views of the outdoors, while other types take advantage of slopes to add windows to other parts of the house.
Shipping Container Home
Homes made from shipping containers first came to popularity among those who were looking to live in a tiny home because the smallest ones are about 100 square feet.
Since then, more and more people are opting for this type of alternative housing because they see it as a great method of recycling. Larger homes can be created by combining and stacking the containers in different configurations.
In some instances, container houses can be cheaper than traditional ones, but in most cases, you will have to add insulation and perhaps a stronger roof in areas where there is much snow, in addition to the usual fixtures, doors, and windows.
Homes from shipping crates can be built quickly. Equipped with solar panels and water conservation systems, the home style is almost like a modular igloo.
Green Roof Home
Homes that have a green roof — also called a living roof — are gaining popularity in urban areas as well as suburban locales. This type of alternative housing is beneficial in a number of ways: Besides helping to insulate the home, a green roof absorbs water and provides a natural habitat for birds and small wildlife.
In more densely populated areas like inner cities, a green roof has a cooling effect on the temperature and a calming effect on the people who are around it. In addition, plants help clean the air, which is a great benefit, particularly in the city.
The green roofs are waterproof. They can be installed on an existing home with some modifications, and can also be used on commercial buildings.
Wood pallets have been showing up in DIY projects for years, so it’s no surprise that they have made their way into alternative housing choices. While they started off as being mainly used by those who want a tiny house who want to go off the grid, wood pallets are now featuring in houses of grander construction.
Ideal for recycling, pallets are themselves very cheap to buy, but it’s important to make sure they have been treated to resist rot and insects. Thanks to their ease of construction and low cost, they are also being considered for disaster-relief housing in various areas.
Tiny houses aren’t new, but they are becoming more popular. As their popularity grows, so do their prices.
Tiny Housing Options
Beloved by those who want to downsize and leave a smaller footprint on the earth, tiny houses are economical and environmentally friend in many ways. This type of alternative housing has grown wildly popular in recent years.
The small homes are coveted for the low cost involved in running it and the freedom that comes from the enforced simplicity of living in a very small space.
Tiny houses come in an endless assortment of sizes, styles and degrees of ingenuity. Besides requiring less energy to heat and cool, tiny homes use less water and often have compostable toilet systems instead of regular plumbing.
Tiny House On Wheels
Much as some people used to turn to recreational vehicles — RVs — to live on the road, today versions of tiny houses on wheels are becoming the popular route to logistical freedom.
This type of alternative housing has all the benefits (and drawbacks) of living in a tiny house, but with the added bonus of mobility. Hitch up the house to a vehicle and off you go.
This style of home often eliminates property taxes and creates extra savings by not being permanently sited. These homes rely on expertly designed multifunctional spaces and plenty of creative storage to make life comfortable.
A far cry from the childhood plaything, treehouses are now a stylish form of alternative housing. From rustic versions for living off the grid to magnificent modern, professionally designed houses that have all the comforts of a regular home, treehouses are attracting a good deal of attention.
A desire for novelty or a yen to be closer to nature often brings homeowners to these homes, which can be very eco-friendly. Large trees are stable, long-wearing foundations for these structures and can withstand weather and the effects of the environment.
Using the cordwood method to build a house is just as the name suggests: Using short sections of trunks and tree limbs — usually destined for the fireplace — the as structural material that is held together with cobb or masonry.
This alternative housing building method is very sustainable because it can use all sorts of logs and wood that would not usually be used for construction.
Cordwood walls are also an excellent insulation and provide the natural balance between the thermal mass and insulation, without the need of using any further methods inside or outside the house.
Imagine spending your life roaming from one RV park to another? Today, that’s possible more than it’s ever been, and thanks to remote working conditions. Similar to a tiny house on wheels, a camper trailer provides instant mobility to its residents. As a form of alternative housing, camper trailers are ideal for people on the go who want the lowest level of home maintenance possible.
Living in a camper trailer is a lot like a tiny house on wheels because space is limited and organization key. With these homes, it’s easy to spend the night in a park, campground or in the wild. Living in a camper trailer is also a wonderful way to travel while keeping expenses down by eliminating hotel costs and allowing greater enjoyment of the outdoors.
Transforming a barn into a home is another example of an environmentally friendly way to repurpose a structure as alternative housing. The large, high-ceiling buildings are perfect for the open floor plans that most people favor these days.
Rather than tearing it down and building anew, converting a barn into a home offers unique design possibilities thanks to the wide open space inside.
Whether the barn is large or small, it can be turned into a comfortable and highly liveable family home, especially if the rustic details of the original structure are left intact whenever possible.
Rather than lapsing into disrepair, former industrial buildings are finding new life as stylish factory homes in the hands of creative homeowners and cutting-edge architects. Highly durable structures with plenty of open space, these buildings make a great base for alternative housing.
The industrial interiors offer a range of original details and design options for creating a modern, comfortable residence that can easily include home office space and plenty of room for space dedicated to hobbies and activities.
Transforming old grain silos into homes is one of the newest trends in alternative housing.
Using one silo can make a small yield a small home and those who want more space can use multiple silos. Aside from being more affordable to build and maintain, silo houses offer interesting options for decorating and design thanks to the round shape.
And while the outside might be plan corrugated metal, the insides of these homes offer just about every comfort you might want in a home. And, if the idea of having your whole family in a silo home is not appealing, these structures make great guest quarters.
Maybe you’ve dreamed of living on a boat but have you considered a floating house for alternative housing? Different from a basic houseboat, a floating home is a real house that is constructed atop floats and anchored to a location on the water. A house barge is another type of floating home that has a hull built for towing or moving down the river.
Because it floats on water, it doesn’t need to meet local building and utility codes. Floating homes can be modest constructions that minimize living costs, or they can be grand, budget-busting luxury abodes. Whichever kind you choose, it will let you live on the water — literally.
Water Tower House
As towns grow and old water towers are abandoned, creative homeowners are turning what could be eyesores into stunning, comfortable residences. The round base structure and large section at the top are both ideal for creating a modern home that offers great views too.
Water towers are very unique home-building opportunities because the supply of old ones is limited, making them a real conversation piece. Of course, they’re also a great instance of upcycling.
In another twist related to the tiny house trend, more and more people are rescuing retired buses for another form of alternative housing. A bus house can be like a motorhome, allowing for an easy life on the go with no utilities or property taxes.
Or, a bus house can be stationary, attached to local services on a private lot of land. Just like tiny houses, these leave a very small environmental footprint thanks to the upcycling of the vehicle and the small size of the house.
Spawned by the rise of glamping, tent houses are now a form of alternative housing for some who really want to go off the grid for a period of time — or even permanently.
These tents have plenty of creature comforts that are installed atop a wooden platform to help keep the base dry. Some companies even offer tent bungalows, which combine the tent with a wooden platform and some other more permanent features such as a real door and windows.
Mongolian herders have been living in yurts for centuries, so it’s no wonder they are gaining popularity as alternative housing in many other countries. The engineering of the basic round shape makes it strong and durable and the exterior material is weatherproof.
As with any type of housing, the inside can be as basic or luxurious as your desires and budget allow. Yurts are also great for use as a guest house or separate home office or studio.
The Geodesic Dome was popularized by Buckminster Fuller in the 60s. While the domes aren’t common today, that might be slowly changing. Their design consists of triangles. The geodesic domes are known for their efficiency.
It’s a relatively inexpensive thing to build and is extremely energy efficient, disaster-proof and can be built with a kit if so desired. Contrary to some beliefs, they do not need to be a single dome and can have separate sections coming out from the central dome.
Hemp is a building material dating back to Roman times. The homes are made with a mixture that combines hemp’s woody fibers with lime to make a light concrete. The material is a good insulator, pest- and mold-proof, and creates good acoustics.
Moreover, a hemp plant grows quickly to maturity in just about 4 months. The stucco-like material can’t be used for foundations or come into contact with the ground. Although it needs to be coated for protection, hempcrete helps contribute significantly to energy efficiency.
Millions of plastic bottles are discarded every year and in many places, they are being transformed from trash into totally usable building materials. Developed by Ecotec Environmental Solutions from Germany the bottle wall technique is already widespread in countries where there are millions of homeless people.
The entire house is made with discarded bottles that are filled with sand, and stacked sideways and plastered into place with mud or cement. The walls are 20 times stronger than brick, fire resistant, and well insulated. The cost of these homes is generally about 25 percent of a conventional house.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ
How Long Does An Earthbag Home Last?
The polypropylene material, if kept out of sunlight, will last a very long time; moisture and rot are not generally a concern, and mineral fill material will not decompose. I expect the earthbag house that I built to last at least a century.
What Is A Silo House?
A silo house is a home that was once a silo. The exterior of a silo homes looks like a giant grain bin because that’s what the structure once was. After a silo has been converted, however, the interior space has all the amenities of a regular home.
What Is The Cheapest Structure To Live In?
The cheapest structure you can live in would be a dome home. The homes represent the cheapest site-built and livable structures today. A dome home is made with steel frames covered with eco-friendly fabrics.
The dome is sprayed with foam and concrete. Once completed, a dome house can withstand natural weather environments. The average cost per square foot of a dome home is roughly $175.
What Is A Cheaper Alternative To Building A House?
Prefabricated homes aren’t cheap, but they’re cheaper than your average house build. The reason why they’re cheaper is because they can be built faster than regular homes.
Are Barndominiums Cheaper Than Houses?
The costs of barndominium houses vary greatly from regular houses when building large structures. In a way, a barndominium house is cheaper than a regular house. However, when building a small house, the cost differences are minimal. The difference becomes large when building large 2000 to 3000 square feet homes.
What Is A Shouse?
A shouse is essentially a personal workshop and/or storage space that’s connected to a house. It’s often situated on a piece of land used for fishing, hunting, or a different recreational activity.
Alternative Housing Conclusion
There’s no reason why your living space can’t be non-traditional if that’s what you want. Should you prefer to live in a home that is different from the majority, then hardest part is knowing how to do it. The process involves knowing about local zoning laws and building regulations. After all, you can’t just build a cob house wherever you want.
Living in a shipping container offers an easier and cost-effective lifestyle than condominium living. As long as you have a place to call home, nothing else matters. As people become conscious of their carbon footprint, living in a traditional home is becoming a less popular option.
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