"All the world's a stage we pass through." - R. Ayana

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Five Alternatives Homes That Will Blow Your Mind Not Your Budget

Five Alternatives Homes That Will Blow Your Mind Not Your Budget

green buildings

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 alternative buildings 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.


For More on Tiny Homes Go to: Living Big in a Tiny House or Tumbleweed Tiny Houses


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.

Affordable Net-Zero Pre-Fab Home Is Solar Powered & Constructed In Only 3 Days


There’s a new net-zero, off-grid capable home on the market, and this beauty is a pre-fabricated house that pops up in just 3 days -they are also designed to stand the test of time, lasting for centuries. Now, doesn’t this just make a whole lot more sense?

The 1620 square foot, 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom home is a great example of how we can use sustainable forms of energy to suit our every need and modern lifestyle. It is built to LEED v4 Platinum and net zero energy standards and also impressively is outfitted with the largest selection of Cradle to Cradle certified building products ever used in a residential project. Cradle to Cradle is a name given to products that have a regenerative design, modelling human industry on nature’s processes, viewing materials as nutrients circulating in a healthy and safe metabolism.


Who’s Behind This Amazing Invention?


This lovely abode was constructed by a company called Unity Homes in collaboration with BUILDER magazine and the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. The home was fully constructed at Unity’s Factory based out of New Hampshire over the course of just five short weeks. It was then assembled on the floor of the expo in only three days! The house is based off of Unity’s Zum model and is comprised by a system of pods and panels that include: sheathing, wiring, insulation, and finishes. Part of the goal of Unity’s home design is to make sustainable homes more affordable and it is, currently at around $150 per square foot, with that price expected to drop.


Watch A Time Lapse Of Unity Home Being Put Together



“We can totally change the equation of homebuilding,” said Unity Homes Founder Tedd Benson. “We can build homes that are fossil-fuel free and affordable. We can build homes in 30 days that are around for 300 years…and we can do it in a way that’s stress-free…for all of us.”

Considering how accessible these alternative options for houses are, hopefully over the next couple of decades we will be seeing a lot more of this! Imagine not having to even worry about renovations or a power bill for that matter… these homes are truly worth it, for the obvious economical reasons and certainly for the environment as well. If you are interested in learning more about off-grid capabletiny homes or Earthships, check out the clickable links! Many people believe that we have to take a step backward with technology, but if we are able to use it to our advantage and without leaving an environmental footprint behind, why would we? The future is friendly.



America’s First Hemp House Pulls CO2 from the Air!

The gorgeous, eco-friendly home costs (only) $133 per square foot to build


Credit: Push Design


Hemp is making a major comeback around the world. In the US, five states have legalized the recreational use of cannabis, and hemp-based building materials are now gaining in popularity.

The first house built in America with hemcrete was constructed in Asheville, North Carolina, and the 3,400 square foot Push House boasts a number of eco-friendly features.

Credit: Push Designs
Credit: Push Design

To create a solid – yet breathable – wall system, hemp hurds were mixed with lime and water on-site an poured in-between the exterior supporting studs in lift.

Credit: Push Designs
Credit: Push Design

As USA Today notes, Hempcrete is actually less like concrete and more like infill straw bale, as it is non-structural. The insulating quality is r-2.5 per inch, and it has the unique ability to capture airborne pollutants over time – absorbing carbon when it is grown and in place.

In addition, the material’s high thermal mass helps keep a steady interior temperature, rather than allowing it to fluctuate.

Credit: Push Designs
Credit: Push Design

Credit: Push Designs
Credit: Push Design

The interior walls of this gorgeous, eco-friendly house are made from Purepanel, a unique product made from recycled paper. It consists of a rigid skin with a corrugated paper core, similar to cardboard. (Below)

Credit: Push Designs
Credit: Push Design

Credit: Push Designs
Push Design

As CNN reports, the house also features 30 salvaged window frames that have been fitted with high tech glass. They were placed to allow the most daylighting without overheating the space. An open floor plans also allows the light to pervade deep into the home.

That’s not all: The energy-efficient wall system is coupled with a super efficient 21 SEER air-based heat pump to effectively heat and cool the home, reducing utility costs and also the need for expensive equipment. With these installments, this home ends up costing a respectable $133 per square foot to build. 

Credit: Push Designs
Push Design

Credit: Push Designs
Push Design

Some compromises were made, such as introducing petroleum-based foam products into the ceiling and foundation. However, the house is a stellar example of how health, energy and design can co-exist in sync.

Credit: Push Designs
 Push Design

Credit: Push Designs
Push Design

The architect is looking forward to constructing similar, smaller homes in the future once he gets through the learning curve of using Hemcrete. Admirably, he says from here on out he will only build houses safe enough for his daughter to live in; we applaud that.

What are your thoughts? Share in the comments section below.

For more information about alternative modes of living see http://nexusilluminati.blogspot.com/search/label/alternative%20lifestyles
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  1. Tiny smart houses are a new interest of mine, nice article.... I can't help but look with shame at our former beautiful prairies around the upper midwest. They've been converted to huge McMansions all the same, huge spaces wasting away at the fragile ecosystem, they pop up like mushrooms, and are very expensive. A debt trap for sure. Move in the house poor and get them on the mortgage wheel for 30-40 years. Talk about a home system based on debt slavery.... Tiny houses can be very practical and as the article states, energy efficient and hence SMART... Young people today would be smart to pool their money and buy one of these pre-fab homes outright, stick it on a relatives parcel of land, agree to pay a percentage of the property tax in return. Place up some solar panels, recycle water run off, and you can live off the grid. More time for family and friends, healthier people and communities, less stress and hence a better overall world....

  2. I remember when my mother had a house built back in the 1980's, my idiot step-father designed the house for just the two of them, I wondered, why only two people needed 3,500 square feet? There are a couple rooms they didn't use. It was just an ego thing, a way to say to the world that they are wasteful idiots. I recommend a good book... Thorstein Veblen's Conspicuous Consumption and the Theory of the Leisure Class....

  3. Thank-you New Illuminati, There is so much positive potential for humans to live more in tune with nature. It is simply astounding that more information about alternative housing remains unknown. I would like to add an alternative home architecture and construction to the list.
    Cob is an earthen building material that is made of clay, sand, straw, and water. It has been used for thousands of years to construct homes and buildings with. It has been used worldwide, but has only just started to pick up interest in the United States.

    About 30 percent of the world’s population lives in earthen homes. This is nothing new to the world, but cob is offering new advantages and opportunities to the developed world. Building with earth and other natural materials is becoming a solution to our world’s energy and consumption problems. Cob is dirt cheap, sustainable as a building material, and ecologically friendly.

    Click here to learn about 14 characteristics of cob homes.

    You can build all kinds of useful and creative things with cob. You can build a cob house, a wood fire oven, a bench, a garden wall, a rocket mass heater, sculptures, and much more.

    1. Thanks - aye, cob is beautiful and works well. We've found that the most durable, ecological and sustainable houses are built from materials like these literally found onsite - clay and stone, and cob as well. It's wise to realise that most houses actually consist of a roof with infill below; when the roof goes, the house begins to automatically decay even when built of stone, so the roof is the most important component! This is one reason why hempcrete - which can remain in place for at least a thousand years with no requirement for steel reinforcement - needs to be considered as possiby the perfect roofing material.
      We're in the fortunate position of living in a forest with many usable trunks lying around (no need to fell them, but one must leave all hollow wood for native animals!) and many nearby ruins are available for the acquisition of reusable secondhand components - the most viable solution for a particular site depends on its surrounds.
      And btw, here's something a builder friend is oft fond of saying:
      Q: How can you tell it's an achitect designed house?
      A: The roof leaks.


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