10 Housing Designs Taking Sustainability to the Next Level

Repurposed building materials and highly sustainable homes are popping up around the world, with innovative designs becoming a reality. Some might think that sustainable buildings mean compromising on life’s luxuries, but architects and builders are teaming up to show that this simply isn’t true. How? With a little innovation…and a whole lot of imagination. Here are 10 houses that take sustainability to a whole new level.


  1. Elliot Bay House

housing designsNo expense was spared in the construction of the Elliot Bay House in Seattle, overlooking the Puget Sound. This exquisite home has sustainability and art woven together throughout the details of the home. Sustainable beech wood is used internally for a sleek and uniform appearance. Rainwater is collected to spill into a reflection pool in the backyard, and internal plumbing conserves water as well. The Elliot Bay House was designed by Nils Finne of FINNE Architects, and is just about the definition of a “dream home”.


  1. A Riverside Cottage

sustain2On the banks of the Geul river in the Netherlands, sits a small vacation home with a lot of personality. Designed by the architecture firm Upfrnt, the house uses raised logs more than 3 feet in height as protection from river flooding. To protect the outside of the home and reduce the need for maintenance, charred cedar planks cover the exterior, which create a natural barrier. The home is solar powered and has water filtration systems in place to safely pump water back into the river.


  1. Daisy House

sustain3Famous locally, Daisy house was built in 1978 by Brian Klopper in Subiaco, Australia. Klopper was ahead of his time by using recycled materials in the house’s construction. It was one of the first houses in Western Australia to use recycled bricks, and Klopper also used steel railway line from the 1850s in his design. This is one sustainable house you can see for yourself on the inside, as it’s offered on AirBnB for under $200 a night.


  1. The O2Haus, A “Net-Zero” Passive House

sustain4Portland is known for its eco-friendly vibe, and many people choose to build their sustainable homes there. PDX Living, LLC, built the amazing O2Haus to run mostly on its design with very little additional energy. It’s a “passive” house that uses an efficient ventilation system to keep the home at a comfortable temperature and provide fresh air throughout the house 24/7. This system requires little energy, but the house uses solar panels to create the energy needed to run the efficient systems within the house. You can also stay at this home on AirBnB, for just $89 a night!


  1. The Brighton Waste House

sustain5In an example of extreme repurposing, the University of Brighton in the UK took on a daunting task: create a house using materials others call “waste”. Built in 2014, it is constructed entirely of waste wood, plastic, and other materials, which are monitored on an ongoing basis and replaced when needed. The entire structure is an ongoing experiment.


  1. ZEB Pilot House

sustain6Unlike many sustainable designs, which merely attempt to create as much energy as will be used, the ZEB Pilot House is said to create three times as much energy as it needs. Using solar energy and recycled rainwater, this house is currently being monitored to see if actual energy output is living up to expectations. Regardless, this is one beautiful and sustainable home.


  1. Innovative Treehouses by Elevate

sustain7Not a treehouse (but close) is a new concept by Hawaiian company Elevate. Covered in living plants and elevated on a small core of wood, these structures will allow for parking underneath them and a security-enhancing storage “trunk”. The versatile structures make use of solar panels, rainwater, and the external plants for a home or office that could be “off the grid”.


  1. The Spinach-Powered House

sustain8In the solar power space, MIT is coming up with innovative solutions—like the “skin” they are developing for more efficient solar energy. This spinach-based material is in its early stages, but it’s being used to cover a prototype house so the energy output can be studied. Strange? Absolutely. Awesome? You bet. The house has other sustainable features as well, like a landscaped roof to collect rainwater.


  1. Blooming Bamboo

sustain9Using a sustainable building material, several companies in Vietnam are working to create inexpensive, bamboo dwellings that can withstand floods. The Blooming Bamboo model is 472 square feet and built on stilts, and can currently survive flooding up to 5 feet. Eventually, the homes should cost about $2500 to build.


  1. Sustainable Hobbit Hole

sustain10Another AirBnB gem, this beautiful “Hobbit Hole” was designed by tiny house entrepreneur Kristie Wolfe. It’s off the grid, running on solar power and efficient water filtration systems, which keeps the grass on the roof green and beautiful, just like the house itself.

Sustainable Housing: Just Getting Started

You don’t need to live in a house made entirely of waste to have a sustainable dwelling. But these houses show us that it’s possible to push the limits of sustainability and still create a comfortable, beautiful home that will make all the neighbors jealous. These homes barely scratch the surface of exciting construction and design work being done to help us live in harmony with our planet.

Clay Miller
the authorClay Miller
I am the creator/writer of and I'm an advocate for oceans, beaches, state parks. I enjoy all things outdoors (e.g. running, golf, gardening, hiking, etc.) I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky (Go Wildcats!!). I'm also a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky.

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