Sustainable Home Building on a Budget: How to Build a Green Home Without Breaking the Bank

published May 08, 2023
2 min read

Are you considering building your own home but worried about costs? Want to build sustainably without spending a fortune?

If you have the bug, there’s no reason to let anything put you off.

If you shop smartly, are willing to get your hands dirty, embrace new or old materials and watch the pennies, there’s no reason why you cannot build your own home for less than it costs to buy.

We’re not going to show you how to build your own sustainable home here, but we are going to share some sustainable home-building ideas you could use.

By the end, we hope you’ll have found inspiration that will help you build the home of your dreams for less than you might think!

Creating a budget for the project

Your first task is to create a budget for your self-build.

If you’re working with an architect, they can provide estimates based on material volumes and costs. This will only be a guide of course, but it should help you assess how viable the design is before you commit.

Don’t be afraid to discuss costs with your architect at the design stage. They do have a tendency to lose themselves in creativity and can sometimes forget budgetary constraints.

There are also usually cheaper alternatives to many common materials you can use to save money.

Factor in your own labor to save even more money.

Do as much yourself as you can and you’ll learn new skills and genuinely put your heart and soul into your new home.

Choosing the right materials

Once you have the drawings and a budget, it’s time to begin selecting materials.

Self-building is about so much more than choosing the colour of brick and plaster boarding everywhere. You have complete freedom to design your home your way.

Consider some of the following building materials in your build:

Sheep’s wool

Sheep’s wool is an amazing material and is worth almost nothing to a farmer. That makes it a very cheap building material to use.

Source it directly from the farmer and you’ll do them and yourself a big favour. Or you can lick it up from most building wholesalers. Once cleaned, sheep’s wool is a superb insulator that allows a space to breathe.

Just what a new house needs.

Use it in ceilings, in wall cavities, in the floor and in the roof.


Cork is another very sustainable material that has many uses in house building.

It grows fast and works well as an insulator for heat and sound.

It’s also naturally moisture-resistant, which is why it’s used to cork bottles. That makes it a no-brainer for house building.

Use it as wall insulation, to add extra noise absorption in offices, dens, music rooms or other rooms, or collect corks and use them decoratively. It’s a very flexible material!

Reclaimed wood

There’s a reason you see so much reclaimed wood around. It’s sustainable and there are some lovely examples you can use.

Reclaimed wood can be in the form of furniture, doors, floorboards, skirting, door frames, worktops and all manner of objects.

It usually has a rich history, lovely character and the solidity and longevity you don’t get with many newer wood products.


Bamboo is another fast-growing sustainable building material. It’s strong, flexible and can be cut (very carefully) into different lengths for different purposes.

Bamboo can be used for decoration, as flooring, wall covering, doors, in the garden to provide aesthetic appeal and a calming sound and works as a property divider.

We’re sure you can come up with many more uses for this amazing material!

Galvanised steel sheets

Galvanised steel can work architecturally or structurally. It doesn’t rust, resists staining and water damage and can look as good in 10 years as it does today.

It’s not that cheap to buy, but if you consider the longevity, it’s a very sustainable and cost-effective material.

Galvanised steel sheets can be used as wall coverings, exterior decoration, room dividers or purely decoratively depending on the style you’re going for.

Recycled plastic

Recycled plastic is about as sustainable as it gets. With plastic taking more than a thousand years to biodegrade, any way we can recycle is a good way.

Recycled plastic can be used as insulation, as flooring and can be turned into almost anything.

Energy-efficient design

There are three design elements that every good sustainable house has.

They are:

Natural light and ventilation

Using natural light means using less electricity while providing light throughout the home. We thrive on natural light, so it pays to maximise it wherever possible.

Ventilation helps maintain comfortable temperature, keeps air fresh and reduces the chance of dampness.

Maximise insulation

Maximising insulation with cork, sheep’s wool or recycled plastic means less heat loss between rooms and throughout the property.

This will help lower heating costs and require a smaller or cheaper heating system.

You may be able to forego central heating altogether. A log burner or air source heat pump could produce all the heat you need.

Passive heating and cooling

Passive heating and cooling are a step up from that and can be hard to pull off on a budget.

Think about building into the earth, positioning your home where it gets the most natural sunlight, using thermal sinks, large windows with blinds to control temperature and clever ventilation.

Sustainable homes on a budget

You don’t need a huge budget to build a sustainable home.

It can be difficult to achieve on a tight budget but, with the right architect and a willingness to embrace new materials and techniques, there’s no reason why you can’t achieve it.

If you have ever dreamed of building your own home, there has never been a better time to try it!