If you read my article on building an intentional community, you’ll see that I am strongly recommending bypassing the traditional mortgage path and promoting build-it-yourself, alternative housing. I have shared a few posts on some of the alternative housing options, but I thought it would be fun to give a brief overview of the more common (of the overall uncommon) alternative housing options that are available today.

Obviously, the photos in this article are just a sampling of what exists and what is possible. These photos are meant to give a general sense of what a building style looks like.

As I started to put this article together, I realized it was going to be photo intensive. I decided to break it up into a few parts.

I will start with Adobe, Earthbag, Superadobe, Cob, and Rammed Earth housing.

Adobe: Sand, clay, an organic component (straw, sticks, and/or manure, etc.) are mixed with water, then placed in a form to produce bricks or blocks which are then sun-dried and then used as a building material. One of the oldest building techniques. Very resistant to fire damage and wind. Susceptible to earthquakes.

Adobe01

Adobe blocks drying in the sun.

Adobe exterior.

Adobe exterior

Adobe exterior

Adobe bedroom

Adobe kitchen

Adobe kitchen

 

Earthbag: A sack filled with earth is stacked like bricks. Barbed wire and/or rebar is often used to increase between bag friction and stability. The structure is finished with plaster, stucco, or adobe.

Earthbag construction

Earthbag construction

Earthbag exterior (pictured here with a natural roof)

Earthbag03

Earthbag interior

 

Superadobe: This is a variation of earthbag construction. It uses long tubes filled with adobe and layered as in other earthbag construction.

Superadobe construction

Superadobe construction

Superadobe home

 

Cob: Very similar to adobe. Instead of making bricks, the mixture (sand, clay, straw, and water) is set in place to form walls. Kind of like building a house out of potter’s clay. Very resistant to fire damage, wind, and earthquakes. Only sitting water is an issue, as these structures were/are common in the wet, British and Pacific Northwest climates.

Cob Home exterior

Cob Home exterior

Cob10

Cob Home exterior

Cob08

Cob Home exterior

Cob11

Cob Home kitchen

Cob05

Cob Home kitchen

Cob02

Cob Home interior

Cob01

Cob Home interior

Cob04

Cob Home interior under construction

Rammed Earth: A form for a wall is built and wet earth, chalk, lime, gravel, and/or cement or other materials are added inside the form. The wall is tamped (or rammed) down, layer by layer, until a wall is built. Walls are very strong and fire resistant.

RammedEarth04

How to build a Rammed Earth wall

Rammed Earth exterior

Rammed Earth exterior (with wooden second story)

Rammed Earth exterior (with wooden second story)

RammedEarth02

Rammed Earth interior

RammedEarth01

Rammed Earth interior

RammedEarth05

Rammed Earth bedroom

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Photo References:

  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/75/Milyanfan-adobe-bricks-8038.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/20/Santa_Fe_adobe.jpg
  • http://backstrapweaving.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/downtown-adobe-santa-fe1.jpg
  • http://ferrebeekeeper.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/innerstate-domes-158.jpg
  • http://ferrebeekeeper.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/576.jpg
  • http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_79hlRPKC4Wg/TBFQXGPPArI/AAAAAAAAAFY/27qHWVd8rR8/s1600/earthbag+dome+in+sussex+england.jpg
  • http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com/cover-shot-chosen-for-new-earthbag-book/
  • http://muddome.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/img_6056.jpg
  • http://www.motherearthnews.com/~/media/Images/MEN/Editorial/Articles/Magazine%20Articles/2012/08-01/Building%20Earthen%20Homes%20Using%20the%20Original%20DIY%20Material/Earth_Building-3.jpg
  • http://sandiegometro.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/beardsleyCorner.jpg
  • http://0101.nccdn.net/1_5/06a/230/378/7256_1337917589_667_7256.jpg
  • http://buildipedia.com/images/masterformat/Channels/At_Home/2011.06.29_house_of_the_month/ettinger_residence_archaeo_architects/ettinger_res_interior_03.jpg
  • http://tinyhouseblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/cob1.jpg
  • http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_SFFub39nbfg/TNgDg7AABrI/AAAAAAAAADY/UbBuIw0LvGw/s1600/DSC_0314.JPG
  • http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_SFFub39nbfg/TNgDTUVrVDI/AAAAAAAAADI/qfgfFkgjK3Y/s1600/DSC_0060.JPG
  • http://inspirationalvillage.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/p1010071_1.jpg
  • http://inspirationalvillage.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/p1010003.jpg
  • http://www.dancingrabbit.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/gobcob-exterior01.jpg
  • http://www.dancingrabbit.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/gobcob-panorama02.jpg
  • http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5281/5264325909_b40dcb4942_b.jpg
  • http://www.marinsonoma.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Cob-home.png
  • https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-vq0Q379gVYI/Ro1WII44R8I/AAAAAAAAANY/TzBvrFPQuOs/DSCN0601.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/33/Home_at_Hollyhock.jpg
  • http://tinyhouselistings.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/5-cob-house-kitchen.jpg
  • http://www.sabmagazine.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/ram04.jpg
  • http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_fjw7ZHkA4FQ/TS35EAP2oiI/AAAAAAAAAfQ/E97bi0k-wN8/s1600/c-vanh04.jpg
  • http://becgreen.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Aercura-rammed-earth-house-058.jpg
  • http://engeyedesignteam.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/rammedearth1.jpg
  • http://www.examiner.com/images/blog/EXID20412/images/Rammed_Earth-lguestbedroom.jpg
  • http://www.adobemachine.com/huston_rammed_earth.jpg