I have been fortunate enough to grow up in a family where we are always looking at alternative building methods, talking about alternative medicines, and keeping an open mind concerning the world around us. My parents, Aunts and Uncles have done a lot to shape my world view, and I am highly appreciative. Not only was I exposed to spiritual/esoteric things such as energy work, Reiki, and auras, but we also talked a lot about living off grid and being self sustaining. One great memory I have is going to an open house at the Earthwood Building School, nearby in West Chazy, NY. It definitely opened my eyes to all the different building materials available to build a house, which is good, you need to dispel those expectations of "what a house should look like" early in order to keep an open mind about things. So this search for an alternative material to build a house is founded in my childhood, and these are the three options I am looking at the most.
Definitely the most malleable option. These houses look like everything from hobbit huts to adobe houses. I love the warm organic feel that they have to them, and how you can pretty much sculpt these houses to look like anything you want. The Year of Mud. It chronicles the author's year long adventure to build her little cabin. Though, I do love how this looks, and have read that these structures are pretty resistant to various environmental problems (i.e. cold, humidity, rain etc.) I almost feel that the time needed may make this more appropriate for a garden shed, or another out building.
Super quick and made out of a waste materail, this is a wonderful option, that can literally be put up in a matter of days. This is by far the quickest of the three. I love that the thickness of the walls does an amazing job insulating the interior. Which living in the frozen north, insulation is always something in the forefront of your mind when thinking about building a house. There are a ton of pictures online.Dancing Rabbit's Blog gives a good step-by-step to sort of outline the process involved. I think this is the option I am leaning toward, not only because I like the look of them, but also the quickness with which they can be built highly appeals to me, as there are about a million other projects that I am adding to my to-do list every day. However, I can admit that I am totally in love with the way the interiors of these houses can be designed.
Finally, the construction method that has a special place in my heart thanks to the folks at Earthwood Building School. I love that these houses look like they are built of stone when you view them from a distance, it's just amazing to look at. Then when you factor in the amazing R-value (insulating factor) this is really a win win. The downside is this technique is also quite time consuming.
So this is a really general introduction, and I know there are other green building techniques out there (such as packed earth, just to name one). But these are the three that appeal the most to me and my climate. I will probably get more in depth at a further date, but this is definitely to a great introduction to building with something other than wood and drywall.