Seven More Homes and Buildings Made from the Darndest Things

An Earthship in Brighton, UK
An Earthship in Brighton, UK

You might see “Seven More” above, and think “Where were the first ones?” That’s OK… we’re doing something a little unusual in the blogging world: creating a sequel to a post on another blog. Not quite a year ago, Brian Clark Howard at The Daily Green did a post on unusual green buildings that included tree houses and Earthships as well as renovated missile silos and churches. After having that post brought to my attention, and briefly discussing it with Brian, I thought I’d do a follow-up… because their are all sorts of interesting buildings out there made from reused,  recycled and natural materials.

I was particularly interested in this topic because I’d just gotten back from the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, where they’ve got a keen eye for reuse… so I’ll start off with a couple of examples you can see there.

1. The reused school bus

School bus house at Dancing Rabbit
School bus house at Dancing Rabbit

This house caught my attention when I first visited DR late last summer… a stripped-down school bus with a greenhouse on the south side (for help with winter heating as well as growing plants), and an earth berm on the north side to create more insulation.

Turns out a number of people have given this a shot: there even a project up at Instructables that gives you some tips for converting a school bus. Keep in mind that this kind of home is best suited for people of smaller stature: even at my slightly less-than-average height, I’d probably be stooping a lot.

2. The mud house

ziggy's cob house with a living roof
ziggy’s cob house with a living roof

Mud’s not exactly correct… the house above, built by DR resident and sustainablog contributor ziggy, is made of cob, a mixture of earth and straw. ziggy created a blog dedicated to building the cob house, and you can see the process step by step.

Interested in learning more about this very old building material? The Natural Building Network will be holding a cob building workshop this summer, and Dancing Rabbit has sustainable building jobs that involve learning about cob and other natural building materials.

3. Recycled junk cars

Rob Boydstun got into home building because he realized that his metal works business (which built commercial car carriers) likely wasn’t going to survive the economic downturn on its own. Still, he didn’t take a particularly easy route: Miranda Homes, the new company he founded, is dedicated to building affordable green homes. Part of the design the new company created involves steel framing for homes… and that steel comes from “the crushed carcasses of junked vehicles. (About four to six cars per house).”

While an unusual material goes into the house’s frame, the homes themselves are pretty conventional… they’re also very green in other ways. Miranda has several dozen photos available on its Facebook page.

4. Reused Train Cabooses


Find train travel romantic? Several home owner have taken their love of the locomotive to an extreme: they live in renovated cabooses.

One of the most interesting: Jim Zon’s conversion of a 1921 Algoma Central Railroad Caboose into a home in Colfax, Wisconsin. He’s got a site dedicated to his renovation, with lots of photos.

5. Reused wine casks

The Hotel de Vrouwe van Stavoren in the Netherlands has put wooden Swiss wine drums to good use: they’ve built four rooms out of them. They’re absolutely gorgeous… take a look at the photos on the hotel’s web site.

6. Recycled sewer pipes

One of the Park Hotel's sewer pipe rooms
One of the Park Hotel’s sewer pipe rooms

Not far away, in Austria, the Park Hotel offers lodging in converted sewer pipes. I’m guessing those thick concrete walls keep out the weather well… and if you want to try this out, the hotel even offers a “pay as you wish” system: “everyone leaves in the Paybox his suite per night € an amount he can afford and with which he is willing to support our project.”

7. Recycled newspaper

Talk about upcycling! Mechanical engineer Elis F. Stenman started The Paper House as a hobby, but became so intrigued by using this material, he even made furniture out of it. Now nearly 90 years old, the house still stands in Rockport, Massachusetts, and is open to visitors.

Paper’s still used as a building material, though: papercrete, made with paper, water, and other additives such as Portland cement or even flyash, is strong and durable.

Keep the ball rolling here… Brian and I certainly haven’t covered all the homes and buildings out there made from unusual materials. What can you add to the list?

Green your home on the inside… check out our selection of green home products.

Image credits:

The Park Hotel and Dietmar Tollerian

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