Alternative Housing: New Paths For Future Living

More alternative housing options exist today than ever before. It’s a sign of progress that people are embracing non-traditional housing concepts. As people become more aware of how they can protect the environment, they’re discovering new ways to live. 

Alternative Housing

A traditional manufactured home leaves a bad carbon footprint on the environment. The long-lasting effects of traditional homes are not eco-friendly. When building a home, sustainable materials are a smart choice.

Today, living off grid can be achieved in style. In the past, if you wanted to live off grid, your options were limited. There are also plenty of living options outside of the tiny house movement.

Here, we’ll show you the most popular home designs that are changing the way people live. 

Alternative Housing Ideas

Alternative Housing Ideas

Here are 25 alternative housing ideas.


Cob Houses

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Cob is an ancient clay building material, similar to adobe, that uses materials like straw, sticks, and other fibrous materials mixed with subsoil and water. A cob home is made with lime, sand, or clay.

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The material is ideal for home construction because it’s cheap, fire resistant, and can withstand earthquake damage.

It’s easy to mold and can be used to create houses that are curvy, thatched-roof style, or more modern versions that look like a typical residence. 

Curved Walls

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Because cob is easy to mix and manipulate, it’s an ideal material for people who want to build a small house with their own hands. Even those new to construction can learn to use this material quickly and easily.

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Building with cob is like sculpting with clay and it can be augmented or reshaped even after it has dried.

Eco Friendly Alternative

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Cob homes are weather resistant. The structures can withstand rain and cold temperatures, meaning they’re suitable for most cold climates.

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Earth Berms

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These beehive-shaped homes are made of exactly what is in their name: bags of dirt.  Plastic bags of earth are stacked to create straight or curved walls. Often barbed wire is used in between the layers for extra stability and to keep the bags from shifting.  

They can be built up tall to create a roof without the need for trusses or other supports. In addition, long tubular bags of soil are sometimes used, stacked up in coils to create another, sturdier variation.

Once finished, the outside is covered with plaster or adobe to preserve the bags holding the earth. 

Straw Bale Home

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From waste product to wonderful building materials, straw bales are an excellent environmentally friendly building material. Besides being inexpensive, the straw is a very efficient insulator. The bales are plastered from both sides. Surprisingly, the homes are airtight, pest and fireproof.

Log House

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Although they are still made of wood, log houses can be an eco-friendly type of alternative housing. The large logs don’t go through the milling and treatment process and are very good for energy efficiency. Studies have shown that logs absorb heat during the day, which helps keep the home warmer at night in the winter.

Greener options for wood stains and the chinking — the material that seals the gaps between logs — are now available, increasing the home’s sustainability factor. Last, but certainly not least, sometimes log homes can be built from dead trees instead of using living trees.


Earth Home Ideas

An Earth home uses natural terrain or other elements to create a living space that will not harm the environment. A few traits of an earth home include thick earth walls, which help the home remain cool during the summers.

Here are a few Earth home styles that are popular today:

Hobbit House

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Does an underground home appeal to you? These underground homes — also called earth-sheltered houses  — are energy-efficient and environmentally friendly options. The low profile also means they are safer from hurricanes and tornadoes, as well as soundproof. Those who build these homes and also use solar panels could potentially eliminate most utility expenses.

Underground House

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Underground homes are no longer relegated to childhood dreams. The home style is becoming a reality. Taking the concept of the earth-sheltered house a step further, underground homes go completely below the surface.

The houses are protected from storms and inclement weather. They have eco friendly benefits along with temperature control features. The front faces outward and offers views of the outdoors, while other types take advantage of slopes to add windows to other parts of the house. 

Green Roof Home

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Green roof homes are another Earth home option. The homes that have a green roof — also called a living roof — are gaining popularity in urban areas as well as suburban locales. This type of alternative housing is beneficial in several ways: Its main feature is how the roof absorbs water and provides a natural habitat for birds and small wildlife.

In more densely populated areas like inner cities, a green roof has a cooling effect on the temperature and a calming effect on the people who are around it. In addition, plants help clean the air, which is a great benefit, particularly in the city.


Shipping Container Home

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Homes made from shipping containers first came to popularity among those who were looking to live in a tiny home because the smallest ones are about 100 square feet.

Since then, more and more people are opting for this type of alternative housing because they see it as a great method of recycling. Larger homes can be created by combining and stacking the containers in different configurations.

Shipping Containers

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This is a great alternative housing option. There isn’t much of a building process as the container is already built. With container houses, there isn’t any unnecessary space. 

If you want a minimalist lifestyle, a container home is for you. The most popular types of container homes have one wall that’s all glass. In many cases, they’re a favorite alternative to the tiny house. The home style is almost like a modular igloo. 

Pallet Homes

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Pallet homes have been popular DIY projects for years. They’re built from scratch with old wood pallets. The pallets are cheap. Before you buy the pallets, make sure they’ve been treated to resist rot and insects. 


Tiny Houses 

Tiny houses aren’t new and are becoming more popular every year. As their popularity grows, so do their prices. What began as an extremely cheap housing option has become a more expensive living alternative. 

Tiny Housing Options

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Beloved by those who want to downsize and leave a smaller footprint on the earth, tiny houses are economical and environmentally friendly.

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The small homes are coveted for the low cost involved in running them and the freedom that comes with living in a small space.

Tiny houses come in an endless assortment of sizes, styles, and degrees of ingenuity. Besides requiring less energy to heat and cool, tiny homes use less water and often have compostable toilet systems instead of regular plumbing. 

Tiny House On Wheels

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Much as some people used to turn to recreational vehicles — RVs — to live on the road, today versions of tiny houses on wheels are becoming the popular route to logistical freedom. 

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This type of alternative housing has all the benefits of living in a tiny house, but with the bonus of mobility. Hitch up the house to a vehicle and off you go.  

This style of home often eliminates property taxes and creates extra savings by not being permanently sited.  These homes rely on expertly designed multifunctional spaces and plenty of creative storage to make life comfortable.

Tree House

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A far cry from the childhood plaything, treehouses are now a stylish form of alternative housing. From rustic versions for living off the grid to magnificent modern, professionally designed houses that have all the comforts of a regular home, treehouses are attracting a good deal of attention.

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A desire for novelty or a yen to be closer to nature often brings homeowners to these homes, which are eco friendly. Large trees are stable, long-wearing foundations for these structures and can withstand weather and the effects of the environment. 

Cordwood House

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Using the cordwood method to build a house is just as the name suggests: Using short sections of trunks and tree limbs, the structural material is held together with cobb or masonry.This alternative housing building method is sustainable because it can use different logs and wood that aren’t typically used in home construction.

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Cordwood walls is also an excellent insulation and provide the natural balance between the thermal mass and insulation, without the need of using any further methods inside or outside the house.

Camper Trailers

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Imagine spending your life roaming from one RV park to another? Today, that’s possible more than it’s ever been, and thanks to remote working conditions. Similar to a tiny house on wheels, a camper trailer provides instant mobility to its residents.

As a form of alternative housing, camper trailers are ideal for people on the go who want the lowest level of home maintenance possible.

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Living in a camper trailer is a lot like a tiny house on wheels because space is limited and organization key. With these homes, it’s easy to spend the night in a park, campground or in the wild.

Living in a camper trailer is also a wonderful way to travel while keeping expenses down by eliminating hotel costs and allowing greater enjoyment of the outdoors.

Barn Transformation

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Transforming a barn into a home is another example of an environmentally friendly way to repurpose a structure as alternative housing. The large, high-ceiling buildings are perfect for the open floor plans that most people favor these days.

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Rather than tearing it down and building anew, converting a barn into a home offers unique design possibilities thanks to the wide open space inside. Whether the barn is large or small, it can be turned into a comfortable and highly liveable family home, if the rustic details of the original structure are left intact whenever possible.

Factory House

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Rather than lapsing into disrepair, former industrial buildings are finding new life as stylish factory homes in the hands of creative homeowners and cutting-edge architects. Highly durable structures with plenty of open space, these buildings make a great base for alternative housing.

The industrial interiors offer a range of original details and design options for creating a modern, comfortable residence that can easily include home office space and plenty of room for space dedicated to hobbies and activities.

Silo House

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Transforming old grain silos into homes is one of the newest trends in alternative housing.

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Using one silo can make a small yield a small home and those who want more space can use multiple silos. Aside from being more affordable to build and maintain, silo houses offer interesting options for decorating and design thanks to the round shape.

And while the outside might be plan corrugated metal, the insides of these homes offer just about every comfort you might want in a home. And, if the idea of having your whole family in a silo home is not appealing, these structures make great guest quarters.

Floating Houses

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Maybe you’ve dreamed of living on a boat but have you considered a floating house for alternative housing?  Different from a basic houseboat, a floating home is a real house that is constructed atop floats and anchored to a location on the water. A house barge is another type of floating home that has a hull built for towing or moving down the river.

Because it floats on water, it doesn’t need to meet local building and utility codes. Floating homes can be modest constructions that minimize living costs, or they can be grand, budget-busting luxury abodes. Whichever kind you choose, it will let you live on the water — literally.

Water Tower House

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As towns grow and old water towers are abandoned, creative homeowners are turning what could be eyesores into stunning, comfortable residences. The round base structure and large section at the top are both ideal for creating a modern home that offers great views too.

Water towers are very unique home-building opportunities because the supply of old ones is limited, making them a real conversation piece. Of course, they’re also a great instance of upcycling.

Bus House

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In another twist related to the tiny house trend, more and more people are rescuing retired buses for another form of alternative housing. A bus house can be like a motorhome, allowing for an easy life on the go with no utilities or property taxes. 

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Or, a bus house can be stationary, attached to local services on a private lot of land. Just like tiny houses, these leave a very small environmental footprint thanks to the upcycling of the vehicle and the small size of the house.

Tent House

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Spawned by the rise of glamping, tent houses are a form of alternative housing for those who want to go off grid either temporarily or permanently. 

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These tents have plenty of creature comforts that are installed atop a wooden platform to help keep the base dry. Some companies even offer tent bungalows, which combine the tent with a wooden platform, and some other more permanent features such as a door and windows.

Yurt House

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Mongolian herders have been living in yurts for centuries, so it’s no wonder they are gaining popularity as alternative housing in many other countries. The engineering of the basic round shape makes it strong and durable and the exterior material is weatherproof.

As with any type of housing, the inside can be as basic or luxurious as your desires and budget allow. Yurts are also great for use as a guest house or separate home office or studio.

Geodesic Domes

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The Geodesic Dome was popularized by Buckminster Fuller in the 60s. While the domes aren’t common today, that might be changing. It’s a cheap home to build, energy efficient, disaster-proof ,and can be built with a kit. 

Hemp Concrete

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Hemp is a building material dating back to Roman times. The homes are made with a mixture that combines hemp’s woody fibers with lime to make light concrete. The material is a good insulator, pest- and mold-proof, and creates good acoustics. 

Moreover, a hemp plant grows quickly to maturity in just about 4 months. The stucco-like material can’t be used for foundations or come into contact with the ground. Although it needs to be coated for protection, hempcrete helps contribute significantly to energy efficiency.

Glass Bottles

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Millions of plastic bottles are discarded every year and in many places, they are being transformed from trash into totally usable building materials. Developed by Ecotec Environmental Solutions from Germany. The bottle wall technique is already widespread in countries where there are millions of homeless people.

The house is made with discarded bottles. The bottles are filled with sand, stacked sideways, and plastered together with mud or cement. The walls are 20 times stronger than brick, fire resistant, and well insulated. The cost of these homes is generally about 25 percent of a conventional house.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

How Long Does An Earthbag Home Last?

The polypropylene material, if kept out of sunlight, will last a very long time; moisture and rot are not generally a concern, and mineral fill material will not decompose. I expect the earthbag house that I built to last at least a century.

What Is A Silo House?

A silo house is a home that was once a silo. The exterior of a silo homes looks like a giant grain bin because that’s what the structure once was. After a silo has been converted, however, the interior space has all the amenities of a regular home.

What Is The Cheapest Structure To Live In?

The cheapest structure you can live in would be a dome home. The homes represent the cheapest site-built and livable structures today.  A dome home is made with steel frames covered with eco-friendly fabrics.

The dome is sprayed with foam and concrete. Once completed, a dome house can withstand natural weather environments. The average cost per square foot of a dome home is roughly $175.

What Is A Cheaper Alternative To Building A House?

Prefabricated homes aren’t cheap, but they’re cheaper than your average house build. The reason why they’re cheaper is because they can be built faster than regular homes. 

Are Barndominiums Cheaper Than Houses?

The costs of barndominium houses vary greatly from regular houses when building large structures. In a way, a barndominium house is cheaper than a regular house. However, when building a small house, the cost differences are minimal. The difference becomes large when building large 2000 to 3000 square feet homes.

What Is A Shouse?

A shouse is essentially a personal workshop and/or storage space that’s connected to a house. It’s often situated on a piece of land used for fishing, hunting, or a different recreational activity.

Alternative Housing Conclusion

There’s no reason why your living space can’t be non-traditional if that’s what you want. Should you prefer to live in a home that is different from the majority, then the hardest part is knowing how to do it. The process involves knowing about local zoning laws and building regulations. After all, you can’t just build a cob house wherever you want. 

Living in a shipping container offers an easier and cost-effective lifestyle than condominium living. As long as you have a place to call home, nothing else matters. As people become conscious of their carbon footprint, living in a traditional home is becoming a less popular option.