10 Homes Made of the Darndest Things

Green buildings come in many shapes and sizes—including recycled shipping containers, airplanes and treehouses.

| July/August 2011

  • Hotel Costa Verde, a two-bedroom hotel crafted from a renovated Boeing 727, is perched on a 50-foot pedestal and offers stunning ocean and jungle views.
    Photo By Vincent Costello
  • The Barn House, designed by Belgian architectural and planning firm Buro II & Arch I+I, combines old materials with new design sensibilities such as ample daylighting and sweeping views of the picturesque rural landscape.
    Photo By Kris Vandamme
  • In the 1920s, Southern California architect and recycler Miles Kellogg built two distinctive homes in the shape of boats out of bits of material he found locally.
    Photo By Tom Harnish
  • Holy men in Sisaket province collected 1 million green Heineken and brown Chang beer bottles for their Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew temple, which is replete with washrooms and a crematorium.
    Photo By Mark Fischer
  • ecc Architects, a Utrecht-based firm, renovated the historic Saint Jakobus Church with respect for the original design and an eye for modern tastes. Original interior features such as the 46-foot tall nave and stained glass windows dating to 1911 are juxtaposed with contemporary art and furnishings.
    Photo By Frank Hanswijk
  • The Tortoise Market is a small, organic convenience store located in the Greater World Community of Earthship buildings.
    Photo By Kirsten Jacobsen
  • Infiniski, a design, architecture and construction firm with offices in Madrid and Chile, artfully combines used train rails; recycled aluminum, iron and wood; and repurposed pallets to create mod structures with a hip sensibility.
    Photo By Antonio Corcuera
  • Made of more than 85,000 rolled up newspapers, the Newspaper House was an art installation created by Sumer Erek in London’s Gillet Square in 2008.
    Photo By Sumer Erek
  • Free Spirit Spheres, "treehouses for adults," are handmade from local wood and suspended from the tree canopy in the rainforest of Canada's Vancouver Island.
    Photo By Mallory Owen
  • Britain’s Blue Forest builds gorgeous treehouses for play, shelter and gardens, using sustainably sourced wood, traditional water-reed thatch roofs and hand-split shingles.
    Photo Courtesy Blue Forest

Regular folks can green their residences in many ways, from swapping light bulbs to planting shade trees. But this article isn’t about those things. It’s also not about the latest green dream homes. This article is about combining the practical elements of the old-fashioned prairie sod house with a whimsical, aspirational attitude of “why not?”

We don’t expect most people will be moving into reclaimed planes or building a home out of beer bottles anytime soon. But we do think these home designs are a lot of fun. They show what’s possible if we think outside the ticky-tacky box and dream of something different. You may not be reusing an airplane wing today, but maybe you can reuse some lumber or corrugated metal, or buy some secondhand furniture or salvaged architectural elements. As these homes show, when it comes to repurposing, your imagination is your only limitation.

1. Golden Globes 

Emerging from the rainforest of Canada’s Vancouver Island are futuristic designs known as Free Spirit Spheres. The “treehouses for adults” are handmade from local wood and suspended from the tree canopy. The spheres are recommended for meditation, photography, canopy research, game watching and other activities. Some are available for rent, and DIY kits are offered.

2. Special Delivery 

Architects and homeowners are discovering the benefits of shipping container homes. It turns out that the strong, cheap freight boxes make pretty useful building blocks. They can be loaded with creature comforts and stacked to create modular, efficient spaces for a fraction of the cost, labor and resources of more conventional materials. Shipping containers can be insulated and climate controlled easily, and they are being deployed as disaster relief shelters and modest vacation homes.

8/7/2013 9:53:43 AM

These are really cool! I always enjoy the print and online articles with houses. I think we would really benefit from seeing some additional pictures for each house (particularly interior photos) in the future. Thanks for being a publication of which I can expect solid ideas.

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