5 Other Materials To Build A Home

Pfff, Weatherboard & Stucco are so over rated. We take a look at 5 other materials you can use to build a house.

Shipping Containers


shipping container

Why not recycle a shipping container? There’s surely enough to go around.

Shipping container homes can create a striking balance between rugged industrial and comfortable living. They’re fire-proof, and nigh on earthquake proof too.

Plus, they make colourful shops!



This leads many to believe they are a viable alternative to the standard 2 x 4 house. However, building a home out of shipping containers is not as easy as you may think. Shipping containers are strong because they are designed to be stacked on the corners. Cutting out spaces for things like windows, doors and chimneys can severely weaken their structure without reinforcement.

Mind you the big advantage is that they can be easily transportable and rugged enough to survive the move. There’s even dedicated NZ companies that specialise in container homes, due to their popularity.




Using a mix of clay, straw, and gravel, cob is an old way of building a home. But if it ain’t broke…

If you’re after a homestead, homely look, cob is one of the oldest techniques that you can still use today to build a house. It might look a bit out of place if you’re inner city though.

Most cob houses were built by early settlers in New Zealand like this cottage in Malborough



Modern techniques that would affect cob building practices are not currently present, which means that if you want an early settler look, you’ll have to apply under  the “alternative solutions” of the NZ Building Code.

Cob also has the advantage of excellent thermal insulation, as the walls are built so thick.  Chilly in the South Island? Build a cob house.

Mud Brick / Adobe Brick


adobe brick

Grab some clay, some straw, a mould, & a good dollop of sunshine and you can make yourself a mud brick home.

Of course it’s always a little more complicated than that, but mud brick homes are fireproof with excellent thermal insulation, and have low sound transmission due to their density. Good news for those of us prone to singing obnoxiously in the house.



Adobe Brick construction methods are some of the oldest on earth, with structures still standing from the bronze age

One of the disadvantages of these homes is that commercial quantities of mud bricks aren’t available if you’re planning on developing multiple homes. There’s a small handful of companies in NZ that do build with the material. So if you enjoy literally building your house brick by brick, you might be in luck.

Light Earth


light earth


Notice how a lot of these building materials use clay? This one is no exception. Take some clay, straw, and park it into a timber framework.

What this does is creates a fireproof insulation layer that has the added benefit of balancing indoor air moisture.

One drawback is that it has to be carefully externally cladded, as wrong finishes can damage the filling very easily.

The House That Beer Built


heineken house

Heineken may have been ahead of its time here. Far back in 1960s, they designed a new type of bottle that could be reused as a building material. They even built a prototype house out of one.

Glass bottles are also surprisingly strong, bearing up to 50 kg per sq. centimetre standing upright

Bullish notions at the time struck down the idea, but glass housing lives on in other forms.



Earthships, and  bottle houses usually combine concrete and glass bottles to build walls. An advantage of this is that you use a whole lot less concrete, and clear bottles allow sunlight to enter the room.

We reckon that it would be a pretty good time emptying all of those glass bottles as well.


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Fiona D'Silva Moiyadi

About the author

Marketing Manager at homes.co.nz (Brand & Strategy Consultant)

Fiona is a passionate strategic marketer, brand specialist, entrepreneur and writer. She is a perfectionist at heart, very enthusiastic and has successfully launched and marketed several products, both locally and globally.
Fiona enjoys cooking, reading, going for long drives with her husband and is currently writing her first book - and it's all about love!
To connect with her or know more, find her on LinkedIn.