Alternative Building Materials

Right now the housing market is interesting. In virtually every part of the world good quality homes are expensive, and in short supply.

This fact, combined with the rising environmental and financial cost of materials means finding somewhere to live is becoming increasingly difficult. Most agree that this situation is unsustainable for many different reasons.

Thinking outside the box

Fortunately, there are people out there that are trying to tackle some of these issues. One good example, is those builders who are building flat pack homes. The article I wrote, last year, about how the UK government planned to use these homes to help them to solve their severe housing crisis certainly caught the imagination of many of you readers. Therefore, I decided to write this post, which looks at how alternative building materials are being used in many parts of the world.

Saving money by reusing waste materials 

An interesting, and sustainable, approach is taking materials that would otherwise end up in landfill and turning them into building materials. It is an approach that is good for the environment, and saves money.

A great example of this trend can be found in Columbia. There a company called Conceptos Plásticos takes waste plastic, moulds it into Lego like blocks that can then be used to construct sturdy houses.

The blocks they make are designed to be put together by people that do not have any construction experience.Typically, a group of just four people can build a home in under a week.

Importantly, these properties can be dismantled and moved, should the need arise. The fact that plastic takes hundreds of years to degrade means they should stand the test of time.

The video above gives you a very good idea of how their system works, but you can find out more here.

Shipping crate housing

Another trend that is catching on is building homes out of shipping containers. Properties built from this material are appearing on every continent, and they are not just being used for emergency accommodation. Although there are plenty of examples of them being used in that way. One of the most recent being in Calais when the authorities housed some asylum seekers in them next to the camp that was aptly named “The Jungle”. They were finished to a reasonable standard, which meant they were much better than the tents most people had been living in previously, but they most definitely could not be described as luxury accommodation.

However, they are being used to build high quality, even luxury accommodation. One of the world´s leading hotel chains recently completed a hotel at Bristol airport that was build from shipping crates. They did so because this module style of building allowed them to complete construction fast, and to keep the costs down.

Natural materials

Straw bale homes are also starting to catch on. In many countries old building practices are being revised. In the UK, new cob houses that are made from earth are being build. This is a slow and intense building process, but extremely cheap. A new take on this building technique is using tires to build the walls, and filling them with earth. This provides stable walls, and keeps rubber out of landfill. Another alternative is filling bags with earth and using them as alternative building blocks.

There are many, many other examples of so called alternative building materials that are slowly, but surely, going mainstream. Above I have only shared a few, but I know many of you will have seen other examples in your area. Please feel free to share the details in the comments below.

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