When a child draws a picture of a house, around the world we see the same drawing of a bricks and mortar building, with a gabled roof. We expect our homes to be built from sturdy materials, brick, stone or wood, which give us stability and a safe shelter to live in. When building a home, a common dream is to build a structure that will last and be passed down through generations of your family. As the dynamic of the family unit and society changes, not all people follow this pattern and for many, living in one place for an extended period is no longer the reality. The younger generations are now seen changing their careers and locations more than any previous generation and so there are many alternative ways of living becoming popular. 

With increased concern for the environment many alternative living options are also eco-friendly or champion the idea of living in a compact space that is functional and minimalist. Many of us think of eating plant-based food or going zero waste is the only way to have a lighter impact on the earth but living in an eco-friendly home is a step further. The construction industry can be seen to have a large carbon footprint. However, this can be reduced by including ecological materials and using innovative construction methods to build your dream, green home, explained below:

1. Shipping Container

Shipping containers might look imposing remind you of gloomy shipping ports, but you can very easily turn these into a cosy living space. Light on the pocket, using a shipping container as the base structure for your home will leave you with more budget for upgrades and renovation. As they come in standardised sizes, many people have transformed their container houses into the ideal modular living solution, with multiple rooms. Specialised companies experienced in conversion, such as S Jones Containers, will help you to design and build your ideal container dwelling. The advantage of using a modular container system is that it is easy to change the layout to suit your changing needs over time, which is much more difficult with a standard home. It is possible to self-build your shipping container home but getting advice from such companies will mean that guidance on building regulations and a streamlined design is covered. 

2. Hemp Concrete House

Hemp has numerous uses and deserves much more attention in the future of industry. Hemp can be utilised in many different ways to create, cloth, paper, food products and of course building materials. Aside from being eco-friendly, hemp fibres are strong and durable which makes it a perfect material for building a sturdy but ecological home. Hempcrete, is used in the construction industry as a substitute for concrete and can be used for the foundations and walls of a structure. 

As for the scientific part of things, hempcrete is classed as a bio-composite material and contains the woody inner core of the hemp plant which is unused in the production of other hemp products. It acts as a filler and binder, and as it uniquely contains large amounts of silica, it makes hempcrete long lasting and durable. As a result, hempcrete is a lightweight insulating material which weighs 80-85% less than standard concrete. Fully solidified hempcrete blocks do not sink in water! As with concrete, you will still need an internal structure to your building because the material itself isn’t recommended for load bearing but it is one of the best insulating materials you could choose for your home. 

3. Straw Bale Home

Another great option for eco-friendly housing is a straw bale home. Different to a thatched cottage, in this eco construction method you use different sized bales inside a hard, outer wall. Straw bales come in different sizes so you can adjust the size to your design needs. Bales are a great insulator, so this is a great option for colder climates; of course, one of the age-old reasons for a thatched roof in the past. One of the things to note is that rats and mice also like to seek the warmth of a straw bale, so during construction, measures should be taken to avoid these critters getting into the foundations of your dream home. 

4. Earthbag and Earth Berm Houses

Earth berms, also known as earth-sheltered homes are most associated with the sort of houses Hobbits reside in popular film trilogy Lord of the Rings. This kind of dwelling includes using natural ground formations for one or several walls of your house. For example, building your house partly into a hill or bank. The advantage of this is not having to construct as many walls and having existing foundations to build your house from which creates a home that fits in to the natural environment beautifully. 

Earthbag houses are another similar variant of this concept, where you use bags of earth to construct the dwelling. To clarify, your walls would be constructed out of earth instead of using an existing formation to build your house. Because of the construction method, this type of home will need significant insulation and adaptations in a cold winter environment, so perhaps better suits warmer climates. Additionally, this sort of home would be limited to size as the construction method means it would be unable to bear significant loads. No wonder hobbits are small!

5. Portable Housing

So far, we have discussed compact, eco-friendly and inventive housing ideas. Yet there is still another idea for those who would like some more flexibility with their living situation. If you like to travel, a possible solution is living in a recreational vehicle (RV) or self-build van. Many take this building challenge on as a side hobby and then eventually move into their vehicle. Although this option isn’t as stable or as glamourous as a beautifully crafted earth berm, you can still make a small space functional, cosy and liveable. It is a great option for those who aspire to lead a more minimal lifestyle, as you will definitely have to cut down on the number of belongings you carry with you.