Private homes make up a fourth of greenhouse (GHG) gas emissions in the United States. And with more than 10 million Americans spending more than half their income on rent or mortgage payments, people are looking towards a more affordable yet eco-friendly solution. This is where alternative housing comes in. Some may not be comfortable with the idea of living in a glorified tent, but others find it a good opportunity to save the environment without having to burn a hole in their wallets.
Interested? Here are a few housing ideas to get your eco-friendly life started:
“Tiny” isn’t used loosely when referring to tiny homes, as their sizes range from 60 to only 400 square feet. Depending on how you choose to build your tiny home (DIY or professionally), it can cost anywhere from $26,000 to $60,000. Don’t worry about not having the necessities, because this kind of home can usually fit a bathroom, kitchen, and a loft-style bedroom. With such a small area, it also allows you to learn how to properly utilize small spaces. If you’re the type who likes to relocate often, adding wheels to your tiny home is a great addition to have.
Tiny homes are a great alternative to traditional housing, but there are things to consider such as zoning codes and regulations, inflated building fees, and resale values. Not all areas are tiny home friendly but, there are tiny home communities that can help you find a place to build your tiny home. Another thing to consider is that if you have a big family or aren’t comfortable in small spaces, this might not be the right choice for you.
Also known as manufactured homes, mobile homes are the largest source of unsubsidized affordable housing and make up more than one-third of the US housing stock. Houses of this type can range from about $48,000 to $93,000 depending on the size of the houses. They’re usually built in a factory and set-up in a property as they are sometimes placed on a metal frame or a trailer chassis, allowing it to be movable when needed. Since mobile homes are built in high volumes, manufacturers get materials in bulk, making the cost to build these kinds of houses cheaper.
Another good thing about mobile homes is that factories build them in controlled environments, so you don’t have to worry about any delays because of the weather. You also have the benefit of getting insurance for your mobile home which is similar to standard homeowner’s insurance in that it covers your dwelling, belongings, medical payments, other structures, and liabilities.
Also known as “prefabs” or prefabricated houses, these homes often get confused with mobile homes. But the main difference between these two lies in where they’re assembled. Mobile homes are fully built in a factory then delivered to the property while modular homes come in parts or “modules”. These modules are then delivered to the property and pieced together by a contractor. These homes are generally more sturdy compared to traditional houses because they require extra materials to reinforce the house frame for when they’re delivered.
They can be a good investment because they generally cost less than a stick-built home, and only take about two weeks to finish. Well-made modular homes can also increase in value over time while lasting just as long as more traditionally-built homes.
Many might not be familiar with earth-sheltered houses but these date way back to the times of the Native Americans. They dug into the ground to create their home and used natural resources like tree trunks or soil to cover the opening. But don’t worry, this isn’t how they’re built now.
Swiss architect Peter Vetsch developed the modern earth house and built his first house that was made of soil in 1974. These kinds of houses are the most environmentally-friendly of all as they’re usually built with the house underneath a hill with its facade facing the hillside. They are also energy-efficient and durable as earth homes have a soil layer that protects the home from different weather conditions like the cold, the heat, and even strong storms. Mesh reinforcements also make the house able to defend itself against earthquakes.
One thing to take note of if you’re planning to own an earth house is humidity, the materials used to build these kinds of houses increase the level of humidity, so you’re going to need proper ventilation and good drainage to avoid this. They are also quite difficult to sell, so if you don’t plan on keeping your home, this might not be a good choice for you. For the tree huggers and environment activists, however, these homes can be a good investment to keep your carbon footprint to a minimum.
With concerns about our impact on the environment, it might be wise for many of us to consider these eco-friendly alternatives to traditional housing. As they say, change starts at home.