7 Alternative Housing Ideas that Are Green and Affordable

Housing prices are on the rise, and more and more people become concerned with their environmental footprint. These two seemingly unrelated aspects led, however, to the rise of alternative housing. Green constructions become increasingly popular all over the world, featuring some of the most innovative and surprising building materials. Alternative housing ideas are creative and feature focused attention towards the structure and the energy consumption embedded in the concept and design. Today, we will look at seven alternative housing ideas that are interesting and unique, respecting the main principles of eco-friendliness and affordability.

1. Cob Houses

alternative housing ideas cob house

Cob houses are not new at all. Many European countries feature such homes (which are still around today since the 18th – 19th centuries), as they proved their durability and sustainability. Cob represents a mixture of earth, clay, and straw, similar to the adobe houses you can encounter in the southwest USA. In comparison to adobe, cob looks like some sort of clay. It is cheap and easy to produce, resilient to the elements and durable in time. Cob houses are somewhat rounder in shape, and their outside walls can feature all the colors you want. Cob homes are sustainable since you can tear down wall and reuse cob to make another wall or house structure. After a few decades or hundreds of years, without any intervention, the house will return to the ground it sprung from.

2. Stone Houses

alternative housing ideas stone house

Stone is one of the most sustainable materials you can think of. In no danger of extinction and durable beyond imagination, stone houses come with their natural beauty and retro-rustic flair. They do not need outside painting, and you can build them easily with rocks. The moment you build a stone house upon the principles of passive homes (green homes consuming little energy and creating small carbon footprints), you will have a well-heated home that stands the test of time, weather phenomena, and even earthquakes. Stone houses are also back in fashion, as they come with subtle feelings of elegance, comfort, and aristocratic seclusion.

3. Shipping Crate Houses

alternative housing ideas shipping crate house

Now it is time to get to business: odd alternative housing ideas which are not that odd since a few years ago! Shipping crate houses are made of modified and re-purposed shipping crates. They are quite small, but the prefabricated shapes and the fact that you can use many containers to build some architectural wonder are arguments in their favor. Their composed, streamlined, and industrial look make these types of homes more and more popular as years go by. Moreover, people add solar panels to them, green insulation and rainwater-harvesting systems to make them even more sustainable and eco-friendly. The beauty of these houses is that they are half the price than a normal house and, if you have some imagination, you can turn them into a post-modern hip architectural project with benefits for you and the environment alike.

4. Wood Pallets Houses

alternative housing ideas wood pallets house

Wood pallets houses were first built as fast solutions to disaster relief housing efforts. However, they are today some of the cheapest and greenest alternative housing ideas in many parts of the world. Wood pallets make incredible cheap, sustainable, and modern eco-friendly furniture, so why should we not use the same materials to build entire houses? It seems we do. Wood pallets are readily-available and extremely cheap. The material is reusable, recyclable, and easy to combine in unique green constructions.

Since the main material is wood, you can upgrade your small cabin to a fully functional house, provided with the proper insulation, heating system, and so on. Many went as far as in adding solar panels and green insulation, together with green roofs – a topic we will touch in the next few minutes.

5. Bamboo Houses

alternative housing ideas bamboo house

Building wood houses is one of the most sustainable and safest materials in the world. However, the problem that comes to the minds of the eco-conscious people is deforestation and the abuse we inflict on wood sources. However, bamboo is not a subject of such concern. Bamboo is even a greener alternative to housing than timber or logs. Bamboo is an incredibly durable material, with excellent insulation properties. It also stands well against the elements (hurricanes) and even earthquakes.

We see bamboo houses as bungalows and exotic housing in exotic tourist destinations, but bamboo becomes more and more popular among people wanting alternative housing ideas and construction materials.

6. Earthship Houses

alternative housing ideas earthship house

Earthship houses are like spaceship only on Earth. Jokes aside, these houses look alien in shape and design. However, they are the Holy Grail the people who want to live off the grid. Such houses are some of the most eco-friendly ones you can find on Earth. They are made of recycled items such as plastic bottles, used tires, metal cans, reclaimed wood, and plenty of hard work.

They do sound a bit like a landfill, but they are here exactly to make recycling valuable and advantageous in the long term. These houses are still very rare, but they do exist, and they are spectacular. You can build them anywhere you get a patch of land, and you can provide them with everything a fantasy palace needs. This could be green energy, insulation, self-sustaining, water collection systems and so on. Probably the craziest alternative housing ideas on this list, Earthship houses can repurpose plastic, glass, metal, and other un-biodegradable materials.

7. The Green Roof Homes

alternative housing ideas green roof house

We have talked about roof gardens and green roofs before, but let us consider them in the light of alternative housing ideas. Installing such a roof is not hard, but beneficial to you and the environment. This is not a new architectural feature, but it becomes more and more popular, especially in urban and suburban environments. The method has more benefits to it than just visual aspects. Green roofs help with the management of stormwater runoff and help reduce the urban heat-island effect. This roof construction solution reflects heat rather than absorbing it like a regular roof and helps with lowering a building’s cooling costs. They are also great insulators while requiring very little maintenance.

If you do have some space available and you want to build such house, remember that your roof can be your neighbors’ lawn, so do not forget to share the breath of fresh air we can all use more often in the city.


Alternative housing ideas are here to stay. They become increasingly popular now that solar panels are becoming commonplace and green energy and building turn out to be a priority for more and more people. You can make excellent use even of prefabricated smaller houses or houses mixing sustainable elements such as timber and stone.

Would you live in such alternative house? Which one on this list is your favorite? Which one would you build for you and your family? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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William E. Eubanks

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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