Buildings made from unusual things

Innovative builders and architects have constructed houses from unusual materials and converted uncommon structures to dwellings.


Recycled tyres filled with rammed earth have been used to create strong insulated homes. A couple in Devon built a one bedroom eco-cabin from wooden crates and old lorry tyres. Although they did not get planning permission, planners decided that because their work could be classed as sustainable development, the building could remain.


Cobs are small dwellings made with sand, clay and water. Far from being a modern innovation, cob houses were built in prehistoric times.


Straw bales have great insulating qualities and have a long history of being used in the construction of buildings. A project co-developed by the University of Bath and a firm of architects developed houses that are clad in traditional brick on the outside, with straw bale insulating walls for the inner walls. A number of these energy efficient homes was constructed in Bristol and went on sale in 2015.


Shipping palettes are in plentiful supply and have been used in the construction of homes. The Pallet House by I-Beam Design was designed as a small dwelling that could be cheaply and quickly constructed from used palettes to temporarily house refugees.

Ships, boats and aeroplanes

Houseboats and canal boats moored on rivers or canals have long been used for housing. Some enterprising builders have placed boats and ships on land and converted them to homes.

Aeroplanes and aero parts have been recycled as dwellings by resourceful builders.

Converting existing structures

After warehouses and mills closed many were converted into houses and apartments. More unusual building conversions include water tanks, grain silos and windmills.

For the foreseeable future, the bulk of houses will continue to be made from traditional building materials, but innovative architects are exploring alternatives.

Posted by Matt Hughes
November 13, 2015

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