Save Money with Innovative Housing: Recycle your Materials & Build it Yourself

Save Money with Innovative Housing - Recycle your Materials & Build it YourselfDIY from the ground up by recycling, then building

There’s a movement afoot to build houses cheaply and reuse materials in their composition, and very often those goals can be accomplished simultaneously.  The third trend you’ll hear about in innovative housing is the substitution of inexpensive natural materials, sourced locally, for new products manufactured for use in the building trades. This can be a costly project and you may benefit from the help of a Payday Loan, just check available rates and make sure you get the best deal for you.

These alternative approaches to living in identical flats, row housing, or subdivisions gained popularity when a scarcity of affordable housing encountered the recycling passion of the environmentalists.  It became obvious that a great deal of what we throw away (scrap metal and wood, architectural salvage, shipping materials like wooden pallets and even entire rail cars) could be turned into serviceable housing, as dwellers in shanty towns have known for decades.

When determined amateurs and professional architects developed a desire to mitigate rather than multiply the environmental consequences of commerce on the planet, they started building homes like these, showcasing the fertility of man’s imagination in design and thrift.  This single photo essay features houses that cost anywhere from £180 to £25,000, and they include:

The earthbag house, which requires you to fill your own sandbags and stack them to build.

The solar cabin, which is tiny and can generate all the electricity it uses with its solar panels.

The house built of cob, which combines raw earth with sand and straw and can be used to form something like a concrete wall, which lasts even in the Western European climate.  We know because it’s a very old building material.

The caravan converted to sessile living, which usually gives its builder the advantage of immunity from local housing codes because it’s technically not a house.  Find an old one or build your own from the ground up, in the manner of Zyl Vardos.

The famous Hobbit House of Wales, built underground using trees as support members.  Make sure you own the land before embarking on a similar project.

The straw bale house (multiple plans on offer here).

The inhabited shipping container, for families instead of tramps because the wheels are gone.  Oddly enough, this choice is the most expensive of the lot, but compared to conventional housing it’s still quite cheap.

Building styles from centuries past

Green roof

You’ve noticed certain themes in the housing above:  the builders often reverted to older, even primitive methods and materials that are still cheap, durable, and protective to the dweller.  Take the green roof, for example– it’s the latest bright idea from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Landscape, but the turf roof, composed of birch bark and sod, has been sheltering Norwegian homeowners with waving grasses, flowers, and even small trees since prehistory.


This mud-brick classic from the American Southwest produces excellent insulation and sturdy construction.  The author of The Owner Built Adobe House recommends making your own bricks from a dilute clay (like one containing sand or loam) plus extra sand, straw, and treated asphalt, mimicking an old Babylonian technique for creating waterproof brick.

Wattle and daub

This technique was widely used in the British Isles from the Bronze Age, and its value as an earthquake-resistant mode of construction is now appreciated in seismically active regions of South America.  Updated wattle and daub uses renewable vegetation like bamboo or cane.


The yurt, a type of portable wooden housing, originated among the horse-taming nomads of central Asia (if the country’s name ends in -stan, you may expect to see a yurt in extraurban locales).  Steam-bent wooden components are assembled, then covered with layers of durable fabric.  The original builders used felt made from their sheep, which insulated and repelled moisture.

Today’s yurts often take their technology from the sturdier variety of tent, and Americans have ventured to alter the traditional shape of the yurt to a more conical form with a flatter roof, suitable for an immobile dwelling.  Every ancient building style imaginable has been revived for the benefit of today’s DIY community, meaning you can select your favourite from the collected wisdom of human endeavour to date.

Editorial Team
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