Dream homes have changed a lot in recent times. Rather than wanting a rambling Tudor mansion, more people are seeking sustainable houses that they can make themselves. This trend of Do-It-Yourself housing began with a few madcap individuals on the fringes who, like Henry David Thoreau, would make their own cabins and live off the grid. Soon, sites like WikiHouse and TinCanCabin began telling ordinary people with little background in carpentry how to throw together their own homes with little more than plywood and shipping containers.
For those sustainable architects who are looking for a little inspiration, here’s 18 sustainable DIY homes made by regular people with nothing more than a little time, a tiny budget, and a dream.
This home took 28 years to build, so it’s not a quick fix, but is completely constructed out of found materials. Driftwood and repurposed building supplies, as well as natural Earth provide space for a full piano, and rooms that stretch over 3 acres of land. The one issue is the lack of a bathroom or toilet.
Pullman Junk Castle
Using a startup cost of $500, a high school teacher and artist began this unusual Wonderland-esque piece in 1970 in Washington State. It’s completely made of found metals and scavenged materials. Just beware of tetanus if you go this route.
25,000 bottles and some cement is all it took to make this home on Prince Edward Island in Canada. It is inspired by nothing more than a postcard of a glass castle in Vancouver. The combination provides a multi-colored light show inside while also insulating against both freezing cold and deadly hot temperatures.
Starting at a grand total of $300, Earthbag homes use the brilliance of military technology to make a building out of stacked sandbags covered in a plastered earth mixture. The result is a home that is resistant to fire, earthquakes, flooding, hurricanes, and even bullets. They can be as small or as large as is required, offering a variety of options for simple living.
Shipping Container Beach House
Just because you live in a shipping container doesn’t mean you must exist in a tiny space. Straight off of Redondo Beach is this rectangular mansion complete with gorgeous light, a spacious feel, and room to spare.
Simple Solar Cabin
Two grand is what it takes to build your own rustic solar cabin that lives completely off the grid. The inside is a scant 400-square feet, but has a loft, kitchen, bathroom, and spacious porch for the person who hates being cooped up indoors.
You can go with a houseboat, but that craze has caused many marinas to disallow people from living at their docks full-time. Rather, you can use any number of building ideas along with a floating platform to make your home literally out on the water, as is the case with this British Columbia cabin.
Dan Phillips Treehouse
Using a passion for not only building, but staying in tune with nature, Dan Phillips has constructed innumerable houses using nothing but the garbage left by the world. Full of pep and personality, his Tree House is perhaps the crowning achievement as it’s childhood reimagined.
The A-Frame Cabin
You’re going to really need to hate being inside to use this design, but if you want to get as close as possible to sleeping under the stars while still having the comforts of a house, this is the way to do it. A little wood, some aluminum, basic plumbing, and a set of hinges are all it takes.
Forget about the sots who build aboveground. The ultimate in smart sustainability is to dig down with a home that disappears into the landscape. Granted, this takes either some serious digging equipment or a lot of time, but when you’re finished, you have a bunker that can make the Fallout Vaults jealous.
Capable of being constructed for about $500, pallet houses have IKEA-grade instructions for using a set of wooden pallets to maximum effect. Insulation and electricity aren’t part of the schematics, but a little ingenuity can alter the basic formula to make a respectable pallet cabin.
Cob is a building material that is ages old. It uses nothing but earth, straw, and lime mixed together to create a strong base that interfaces with the natural ground around it. Add in a little found driftwood and recycled bits and pieces, and you can use it to make an easily expandable home for pennies on the dollar.
The Hobbit House is a spin on the standard cob house that uses a combination of digging down and building up to create a workable home with surprisingly ceiling space, reminiscent of the work seen in the films based around J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings.” The designers of this model used things they found in the area, and had no previous knowledge of building or architecture.
Using an old airstream or other well-built trailer as a frame and then gutting the interior is an inexpensive, if not always sustainable DIY housing project. It can take about $6K when all is said and done, but when you’re finished, you get a quaint, cozy, playful space that can roll wherever the road takes you.
Cans, bottles, tires, and other used materials comprise each Earthship. The trash is cleaned, filled with dirt, and then plastered over with colored stucco to create a shapely home in whatever style you like. They even work best in extreme climates and can quickly be interfaced with wind or solar power.
Straw Bale House
An investment of a few hundred to a few thousand can land you in a very nice Straw Bale house that starts at 770 square feet. Plans, designs, and material lists can be found at Strawbale.com, with a huge array of building choices that belie the simple materials beneath the gorgeous outsides.
Nomad Flat Pack Micro Home
With a drill and $25K you can have yourself a domicile with 100 square feet, including lofted sleeping area, kitchen, and bathroom. There’s even a narrow staircase so the need for the ladders typically found in these quaint hobby homes is eliminated.
Eco-Tec Recycled Plastic Homes
This type of sustainable house is wonderful in two ways. First, it employs those PET (polyethylene terephthalate) water bottles that are constantly being thrown away, and secondly, the homes handle bullets, earthquakes, and provide a long-lasting structure that will be with you for years to come. Packing the bottles with dirt, and putting them together with cement, then glazing the whole mixture yields homes of any size for surviving in comfort and style wherever you hang your hat.