As part of the increasing desire to simplify one’s life and live more sustainably, there are various trends which have been emerging over recent years. Eco designed housing which provided better insulation, passive solar design, and the use of renewables was all the rage back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Now things have really ramped up with some cool, practical, and inexpensive methods of building, demonstrating you don’t need to have loads of cash to afford something practical, sustainable, and liveable. People are turning to a whole range of alternative housing options such as container pallets, straw bale, earth berm, earth bag, recycled materials, and used car tires as building materials. Here are three alternative to building which will no doubt change the way people live…
Earthships – Resilient, Self-Sufficient, Functional, and Beautiful
Michael Reynolds of ‘Earthship Biotecture,’ based in Taos in the U.S., has developed a model of building over the last forty years which encompasses passive solar design. His houses are made of both natural and recycled materials (such as earth-filled tires). His Earthships are designed to function as autonomous buildings using a combination of thermal mass construction and natural cross ventilation, assisted by thermal draught (Stack effect), to regulate indoor temperature. Earthships are generally considered to be off-the-grid homes, minimizing their reliance on both public utilities and fossil fuels.
Typically Earthships use materials which are available to the common person. The concept of embodied-energy is taken seriously by those who build Earthships. Embodied energy is essentially the energy consumed by all of the processes associated with the production of a building, from the mining and processing of natural resources to manufacturing, transport, and product delivery. Using already existing materials means that there is significantly less energy required in building a structure. Accordingly, one of the major structural building components of the Earthship is recycled automobile tires. These are filled with compacted earth to form a rammed earth brick encased in steel belted rubber. This brick and the resulting bearing walls it forms is virtually indestructible. Aluminium cans, bottles, glass, and plastic bottles are also used to create brick like components which also act as aesthetic features throughout building designs. These bricks create a cement like matrix that is very strong and very easy to build. Bottles can create beautiful colored walls that light shines through. (1)
For more on Earthships you can visit: Earthship Biotecture
Tiny Homes – Minimalist, Economical, and Environmentally Friendly
Imagine living free from rent, mortgage, and utility bills. Imagine living in a home that generated its own electricity and captured its own water. Imagine you could build this home yourself for a very affordable price. Now imagine how your life would be different if you were free from debt. We live in a rapidly changing world, as economic and environmental forces continuously beg us to reevaluate our way of living on the earth. The Tiny House Movement is a sweeping phenomenon in the United States, largely as a result of the recent economic troubles, which have caused many to lose their homes. (2)
While the trend over the last decade has been for larger homes, the tiny house movement is becoming popular among those wishing to be more sustainable and wanting to live simpler, less consumerist lifestyles. The small house movement is about reducing the overall size of dwellings to less than 1,000 square feet, or approximately 93 square metres. Tiny Homes are about living simply and beautifully, yet still with everything you need. It’s about freedom from debt and having the economic autonomy to live a bigger life, instead of having a bigger house.
While still a relatively small sector, the tiny house market is set to see more interest over the coming decades. As housing affordability deteriorates along with economic conditions, more young people will seek alternative ways of living. Tiny homes can cost the same price as a new car, ranging between $20,000 to $50,000. With many Americans spending one-third to more than half of their income on housing, living small offers greater freedom to the alternative of being tied to a mortgage for thirty to forty years.
Earth Bag – Inexpensive, Natural and Strong
Earth bag construction is relatively inexpensive compared to the traditional brick and mortar building most of us have become accustomed to. It is a natural building technique which can be done quickly with mostly local materials. The technique requires basic construction materials, such as inorganic material usually available on site. Moist subsoil which contains an element of clay, enabling adhesion when tamped, is mixed with either gravel, crushed rock, or volcanic materials. The walls can be curved or straight and domed with earth or topped with conventional roofs. Polypropylene bags are filled with soil or insulation which are then tamped flat. Barbed wire is layered between bags to prevent slipping as well as adding to tensile strength. The final plastered walls look just like adobe structures.
Check out this cool time lapse video of an earthbag construction being built.
Excerpts taken from Rethink…Your world, Your future.
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