Green Building Materials for Sustainable Housing

Guest Post by Karlyn McKell

If you want to live a sustainable lifestyle, your home is a great place to start. Using natural or recycled materials during the construction reduces waste during the building process and reduces or eliminates energy consumption once you move in. 

While some of these materials, such as stone, have been used for centuries, other methods, such as building with recycled tires full of rammed earth, are less common in residential structures today. 

Living in a natural home in a rural environment will help you and your family slow down and reduce stress. You’ll also sleep easy knowing that you’re doing your part to reduce your carbon footprint at home. 

Below, we discuss some of the green building materials used in construction today. You can also check out our infographic at the end of the article

Cob

A cob home is one of the easiest and cheapest natural home builds. It’s easy to work with so even beginners can have success constructing design with cob. The mixture is made up of various natural ingredients such as sand, soil, straw and lime. 

Homes constructed using cob tend to look whimsical and enchanting, resembling the Hobbit homes from Lord of the Rings. These homes can end up nearly one-tenth of the cost of a traditional build. They’re also energy efficient, as the cob mixture can help slow down the rate of heat transfer and regulate internal temperature. 

It is worth noting that cob houses do take longer to construct than traditional builds. Humidity can also become a problem; if your moisture levels are off mold and health problems can follow. 

Cordwood

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A cordwood cottage is both low-cost and thermally efficient. It’s also very cozy and has great insulation from both the heat and cold. While cordwood cottage designs peaked during the Great Depression due to their low cost and ease, environmentally-minded homeowners and minimalists are revitilizating this construction trend today. 

When done correctly, cordwood masonry can be transformed into a passive home design. There are many blogs and books on how to DIY this construction method yourself.

Bamboo 

If you live somewhere tropical or are looking for a dreamy and whimsical home aesthetic, you may prefer a home build of bamboo. People have been using bamboo during home builds for centuries. This wood is famous for its lightweight and flexible nature, making it easy to transport and build with. What many people don’t know is that bamboo has greater tensile strength than steel and can withstand compression better than concrete. 

Bamboo is also one of the fastest growing plants in the world, so replenishing resources is easier than with traditional wood.

Adobe Brick

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Early Americans knew a thing or two about designing unique home structures with low sound transmission. In fact, they used adobe brick, made of clay and straw, to build communities into the side of mountaintops. 

Today, adobe brick is used in Southwestern and Mediterranean-style construction and is beloved for its low cost and architectural flexibility.

Fungi

While this construction method is still in its infancy, fungi has proved to be a durable root that can be transformed into building blocks. Mycelium, also known as mushroom roots, are fully organic and stronger than concrete. 

This method is part of a larger movement by some architects to create structures and cities from living and breathing organisms.

Earth Bags

Did you know that you can live in a home made of bags of earth? Rammed earth homes lay sandbags full of earth on top of each other in a method similar to bricklaying. Construction typically vehins in a trench and then they are built up from there, finished with a plaster like stucco or adobe. 

Since earth rammed homes are made of literal bags of earth, you can source your earth locally. Rice hulls or crushed volcanic stone are two popular earth materials used in the bags. These homes provide natural insulation, which is better for your health. 

Living in a home built of natural materials is the first step to creating your homestead dreams. If you decide to DIY your natural homestead, you can take on a homesteading project that lets you live and build simply. 

To learn even more about green home construction, check out this visual from The Zebra below! 



How to construct an eco-conscious home