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Alternative Home Building: Ordering Materials Locally, Nationally, Internationally

Updated on March 21, 2010

Alternative home building is becoming increasingly popular. People are interested in being more eco-friendly in all of their actions. Building new homes with sustainable materials is a very key way that people can do this. Additionally, building your home with alternative building materials often means that the home will be more energy-efficient, saving you money over the long run in terms of the costs of electricity used in your home. When buying alternative building materials, you have to decide if you are going to shop locally, nationally or internationally. This article explores this options.

Ordering Locally

Whenever possible, most people interested in alternative home building opt to search for products in their local area. Doing so reduces costs. Furthermore, it helps to support small designers, builders, and others working within the local community. The idea behind the alternative home building movement is that changing the world starts at home. By buying locally, you further support the intention of this movement.

Shopping locally allows you to leave a smaller eco-footprint because you are limiting the amount of transportation damage you do to the environment. Shipping from far away locations uses up natural gases and oil and creates pollution in the environment. It will sometimes be unavoidable to have materials shipped. However, you should think about working locally as much as possible to truly make your home environmentally friendly.

Besides, working locally is a really positive experience. Most people find that others in their community are interested when they find out that the person is building an alternative home. They want to help. And the more people you can get to help in your local community, the easier your building process is going to be. It is probably also going to be cheaper.

To find people to order from locally you should remember that word of mouth is one of the most powerful tools in the alternative home building market. There are people out there with materials who are often happy to give you a low cost. Sometimes you can even provide a service to these people in ridding them of materials they do not want anymore. You get your alternative home building materials, build up your connections in the community, and provide a service all at the same time. It starts with letting people know that you are out there, that you are building an alternative home, and that you are seeking certain materials. The word will spread itself, but you can facilitate it by getting out there in the community and doing some talking. Start a blog to update people on your progress, and you will see even more support.

Ordering Nationally

Of course, sometimes the materials you are interested in purchasing for use in your alternative home building are not locally available. At this point, many people purchase products from elsewhere in the nation and have them shipped to their construction site. This is especially true for people interested in building with alternative materials that are indigenous to another area but may also be true for people interested in specific alternative home building methods as well. For example, if you are interested in using wood from urban harvesting in the construction of your alternative home but you live in a place that has very few trees and even fewer storms taking them down (think the Southwestern desert), you may need to import that lumber from elsewhere in the United States.

One of the main things you want to think about when ordering nationally is whether or not what you are ordering is a good product for the environment in which you are building your home. Natural materials often work best in the areas to which they are indigenous. If you really want to build in a way that is energy-efficient, you may need to reconsider the materials you are using. This is not to say that you cannot get materials from around the nation. Just remember that you are going to want to do some extensive research into how that material is going to work in its new natural environment. You want your home to stand up to the weather and climate of the area in which you are building. You also want it to be energy-efficient without having to make too many adjustments to the design of the home.

You should make sure to look at what adjustments are options for you, though. Some building material becomes much more efficient in new environments when properly tweaked to suit that environment. Learn in advance what kind of plumbing, electricity, and placement will need to be done to make products imported from elsewhere in the nation useful to you in the new home.

Ordering Internationally

In rare instances, you may want to purchase materials for alternative home building from an international resource. Doing so requires that you do extra research before making your purchases. First, you will want to research your costs and make accommodations to your budget. Second, you will want to research the companies that are providing these green building materials, as international standards for green building may not be up to par with the standards you are anticipating. And finally, you will want to research the methods behind the shipping of these products. Remember that if you are having products shipped you are increasing your carbon footprint and may not be making the greenest of choices. This is not to say that you cannot order internationally but to advise you to be careful when doing so.

An example of responsibly working internationally can be seen in the case of using urban harvested wood for the construction of your alternative home. Let us say that a big storm hits the coast of a foreign city. The few people who are actively involved in urban harvesting may get the right permits to allow them to collect some of the lumber that has been taken down by the storm. This lumber may have otherwise fallen into the ocean or been left to rot on land. Removing it responsibly, these companies bring it back to the United States to get a second use. If you are interested in working with this lumber, you will need to do your research. First, stay on top of the news in this industry to know where the lumber might be. Second, make sure you are working with lumber companies that keep their shipping methods energy-efficient and that engage in responsible behavior toward the citizens of the area in which the disaster occurred. Finally, make sure you are properly using the repurposed materials in creating an energy-efficient home.

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