In many parts of the world, houses are constructed using scavenged materials. In Manila's Payatas neighborhood, slum houses are often made of material sourced from a nearby garbage dump. In Dakar, it is common to see houses made of recycled materials standing atop a mixture of garbage and sand which serves as a foundation. The garbage-sand mixture is also used to protect the house from flooding.

In the United States, modern house construction techniques include light-frame construction (in areas with access to supplies of wood) and adobe or sometimes rammed-earth construction (in arid regions with scarce wood-resources). Some areas use brick almost exclusively, and quarried stone has long provided foundations and walls. To some extent, aluminum and steel have displaced some traditional building materials. Increasingly popular alternative construction materials include insulating concrete forms (foam forms filled with concrete), structural insulated panels (foam panels faced with oriented strand board or fiber cement), light-gauge steel, and steel framing. More generally, people often build houses out of the nearest available material, and often tradition or culture govern construction-materials, so whole towns, areas, counties or even states/countries may be built out of one main type of material. For example, a large portion of American houses use wood, while most British and many European houses use stone, brick, or mud.

In the early 20th century, some house designers started using prefabrication. Sears, Roebuck & Co. first marketed their Sears Catalog Homes to the general public in 1908. Prefab techniques became popular after World War II. First small inside rooms framing, then later, whole walls were prefabricated and carried to the construction site. The original impetus was to use the labor force inside a shelter during inclement weather. More recently, builders have begun to collaborate with structural engineers who use finite element analysis to design prefabricated steel-framed homes with known resistance to high wind loads and seismic forces. These newer products provide labor savings, more consistent quality, and possibly accelerated construction processes.

In the developed world, energy-conservation has grown in importance in house design. Housing produces a major proportion of carbon emissions (studies have show that it is 30% of the total in the United Kingdom).

Development of a number of low-energy building types and techniques continues. They include the zero-energy house, the passive solar house, the autonomous buildings, the superinsulated and houses built to the Passivhaus standard.



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