7 Fascinating Types of Alternative Housing

Real Estate Agent with Real State Company


A home can be made out of any material and be in virtually any location that you can think of. Find out seven fascinating types of alternative housing here.


The limits on how you can make a home have really stretched over the last few years. 

It’s not all brick and mortar anymore; you can build a sustainable and comfortable home out of so many different things. For a creative person that wants to keep off the grid, alternative housing also allows you to live pretty much anywhere and any way you want.

In this post, we’re going to offer you up some inspiration by showing you some of the more interesting types of alternative housing out there.

Whether it’s a tiny homemade from sustainable materials, an RV, or an old shipping container, you can have a fulfilling life in one of these homes. If you’re ready to make a housing change, here are some of your options.

1. Earth Houses

The biggest emphasis, when discussing alternative housing, is usually placed on earth-friendliness. Eco-efficiency and eco-friendly materials dominate the conversation, but how many people talk about using fully natural products for their homes?

Cob houses and earthbags are becoming popular in rural areas. “Cob” is a mixture of straw and earth and it’s applied in large quantities to build a structure. Earthbag homes, on the other hand, are exactly what they sound like: bags of earth stacked up to build the framework of a home.

Both of these are incredibly good for the environment and offer a surprising amount of insulation and protection against the elements.

2. Underground Living

This has become extremely popular in Australia, where there are networks of underground cities built in certain areas to withstand the extreme desert heat.

As we see the publicity of underground homes increase, we’re sure to see them pop-up (or down) in our part of the world as well, at least where the land is conducive for them to be built. The effects of climate change become more apparent, which is why we’re guessing more people are going to find their way underground.

3. Tiny Homes

Tiny homes are popular among those that appreciate a more nomadic lifestyle. Many of them are built small enough that they can be towed to various locations relatively easily and there are even a few YouTube channels devoted to showcasing tiny home builders and owners around the world.

What’s more, most tiny homes are made from green and recycled materials, so they’re super friendly for the environment. Their small stature also decreases the need for big heating and cooling solutions, meaning a much smaller carbon footprint for those who decide to build one.

4. Shipping Containers

You might not even notice the number of shipping container homes all around you these days because they’re rather inconspicuous and a lot of the builders have figured out how to dress them up to look like normal homes.

So many homes and businesses are made from shipping containers these days because it’s super cheap and it gives you a pre-made structure to build around.

While these started out as one kind of tiny home, it’s now common to see a few shipping containers used creatively to form a much more complex structure. Two-floor, multi-room homes are now being made from shipping containers, allowing those interested in sustainability to also live the comfortable life that they’re accustomed to.

5. Modular

If you don't know what a modular home is, it's a home that's built inside of a factory, rather than on-site. Once it's completed, it's covered and transported to the lot, where it's then assembled by a builder. 

There are a lot of misconceptions about modular homes, the biggest ones being that they have to look a certain way. While modular homes do have to adhere to strict building codes, there are no restrictions on the actual design elements of the home.

A lot of people ask the question, "how long do modular homes last?". The truth is, they last as long or longer than traditional homes. Because they're built in a factory and the building codes are stricter, they tend to be even sturdier than current design trends

6. Green Roofs

You don’t have to look hard to see how popular solar panels are all over America and Europe, as they’re proudly displayed on roofs everywhere. What not as many people do, however, is to use their roofs for green space. “Green Roofs”, as they’re commonly called, are house roofs with grass and other small flora on them.

They are always breathtaking to look at, yes, but they actually offer a lot of practical benefits as well. If you live in a rainy climate, a green roof can aid with stormwater runoff and actually do a much better job than trough systems.

They also reflect heat rather than absorbing it, so you can insulate and cool your house much more effectively, lowering heating and cooling costs.

7. Stone: Revisited

Taking a walk through a typical subdivision in 2020, you'll see a lot of houses that look identical to one another, with all of the same materials and design elements. In decades and centuries past, wood and stone were the typical housing structures and guess what? They last!

Stone houses, in particular, are a lost art form. In reality, they're about as sturdy as you're going to see and if they're built the right way, with passive design, they'll be able to store heat within the walls, creating a sustainable and affordable housing design.

You may think that a stone home is going to end up looking dated, like something from a different time. That's the beauty of it, though. You can create something modern and attractive while integrating a classic look from the past.

Alternative Housing Inspiration

These are just seven of the most unique and creative alternative housing options out there, but the best part is that there are so many more out there. If you're looking to build something special, you can incorporate two or three of these ideas and build a complete one-of-a-kind home for yourself and your family.

Did you find this post helpful? Come back and visit us again for more on real estate and home improvement.

Comments (3)

Lottie Kendall
Compass - San Francisco, CA
Helping make your real estate dreams a reality

I enjoyed your post, Shakeel, and hope you'll keep writing here. I'd have a hard time personally with underground houses, but other alternative houses would suit me.

ADUs are a big trend here in our expensive area, with little land free, and shipping containers have been talked about a lot in San Francisco--perhaps a few have been built.

Welcome to Active Rain!

Feb 16, 2020 10:37 AM
Jeff Masich-Scottsdale AZ Associate Broker,MBA,GRI
HomeSmart Real Estate - Scottsdale, AZ
Arizona Homes and Land Group/ Buy or Sell

This is a fascinating list SHAKEEL AHMED and really makes you think. I enjoy about homes built into a hillside with a front door and windows only and maybe a roof top steps as an alternate exit. Advantage in the West that being inside the hill creates a more constant temperature. Jeff 

Feb 16, 2020 12:16 PM
Richard Weeks
Dallas, TX
REALTOR®, Broker

Great information, thanks for sharing.  I hope you have a great month.

Feb 17, 2020 02:01 AM

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