Everthing old is new again

imagesHouse building is going in an interesting direction. More and more we are seeing houses becoming smaller and smaller.  This may be due to the burgeoning of urban populations, and a desire more and more homeowners feel to make their space as effective as possible. Everything is becoming more efficient, more nature oriented and smarter. Eco-friendly houses are becoming more and more popular and a movement for resourcefulness is becoming a big focal point for a lot of upcoming construction trends. These two trends are lending themselves to more alternative building materials being used in construction.

We’ve gathered some examples below of how builders are ingeniously making use of non-traditional core materials to build and construct homes.

Dirt and other widely found natural materials have long been used as a construction material. All throughout history, starting 10,000 years ago, cob houses have been common knowledge and, in some parts of the world, they are still popular. Recent years have seen cob constructions re-emerge, and houses made entirely of dirt, straw and clay have popped up on design blogs as good examples of completely green homes.


CobCob is fireproof, resistant to earthquakes and cheap, so it is no wonder that it was revived. In construction, cob is clumped into shape, by hand. This is the material for you if you’re considering building a new house and you want it cheap, fast, green and with a strong character.


This sounds crazy to be true, but if you’re an architecture junkie you probably know Earthbagabout earthbag homes. This is as simple as it sounds: the construction is made of sacks of sand (mixed with 30% binding material, like cement or lime) piled up and plastered over with adobe.

If this sounds strange, you should know the houses have amazing potential, as they have a unique and appealing aesthetic outside while providing a spacious and warm space inside.

Additionally, building with earthbags is cheap, and you could get end up paying as little as $2000 to $5000 for an entire house.

 Straw bale

This historical material is used for structure as well as insulation. As straw is easily available, this is a renewable material that promises small construction costs.

Straw-baleIf you’re planning on building a home with a near zero ecological footprint, then straw-bale is a valid option. A good, raised foundation and water barrier are essential for this type of construction, but with all the precautions, a humid climate doesn’t really work well with straw, so make sure you do your research before starting a project.


Some 1000 year old houses made using cordwood still exist in Greece and Siberia, which speaks volumes about why this method is popular. Cordwood construction is particularly Cordwoodeconomical and it involves debarking the wood and laying them up crosswise with masonry or cob mixtures. The best wood is not too dense and airy, because it shrinks and expands less than dense hardwood. Pacific yew, juniper and cedar wood are the best types you can use, while elm or oak won’t work.

The advantages of cordwood are easy manoeuvrability, low costs and energy efficiency, not to mention it looks quite good too.


We’re facing an entirely new era in building. More and more people are taking matters into their own hands and ancient techniques and materials are being revived because of their efficiency. 2014 will surely see a boom in this trend, as people get informed and change their perspective of what building a home should be.


corkwood panellingThis sustainable material is produced without the cutting of any tree and is commonly used in many ways. Cork flooring, acoustical wall coverings and floor underlayment are just a few ways to make the best out of it. This is green building at its best, as it joins the qualities of renewability with its actual abilities: thermal insulation, impermeability, design flexibility, slip resistance and, last but not least, its esthetical characteristics, which make it a good option if you’re trying to find an unconventional material for your home.

The cork market is new, but promising, and prices, although a bit higher than you’d find for its traditional replacements are said to fall in the near future.


Uma Campbell is a freelance writer from Southern California. She loves writing about home decor and design trends. To view more of her writing, you can visit the Luxe Water Walls blog.

Category(s): By Uma J Campbell
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  • http://www.ourbuildhandyman.com.au/ James Mason

    Great article guys, im definitely seeing a move towards more sustainable building products, and i think its a good thing!

  • Jeff

    Great information! Thanks for sharing this information! it definitely seems to be a great future! We are recently getting our house build through New Home Builders in Queensland and they have been suggesting us some new sustainable ideas in our home!

  • Erik

    Thanks for sharing the above post! its really so refreshing to see old things coming back again. I am thinking of demolishing my old house and get some Efficient New Home Builder in Queensland to build me a nice new design home!