GAZA CITY - On the one hand, it's the ultimate in "de-development". But on the other, it's a testament to Gazan ingenuity which has somehow been undimmed by three bloody weeks of war and two years of total economic blockade.
Certainly there is no prouder homeowner in southern Gaza than Jihad al Shaer, as he sits on his palm-lined verandah looking out on his desert garden, its path neatly fenced with half-buried tyres, and already blooming with watermelon, tomatoes and aubergines.
But it's the three-room family house itself which he completed within weeks of the end of Israel's Operation Cast Lead in January that is the source of his pride. It's built almost entirely with mud.
Al Shaer, 36, first became interested in the multi-millennium-old technique of building mud houses when he visited Bangladesh during a religious trip in the 1990s.
"This was what our ancestors did before us," he says. "But I never thought I would be doing it myself."
Last year, when his parental home, in a town whose chronic housing shortage is compounded by the relentless demolitions along the border with Egypt during nine years of conflict, became too overcrowded, he realised he needed somewhere else to live.
Money was in short supply and cement, which Israel has not allowed into Gaza since Hamas seized full control by force in June 2007, unaffordable.
But thanks to the multiplication of smuggling tunnels under the border, mud was abundant. It was also free apart from the £32 ($81) a truckload it cost to transport it to his 300sq m of land on what was, until 2005, the Israeli settlement of Morag.
Using a shoe box to mould mud, sand and water bricks strengthened with corn husk straw, leaving them to dry for three days, and making a timber roof frame, allowed him to install his wife, his four daughters and infant son in a new house for around US$3000 ($4780) compared with the US$25,000 for conventional construction.
Al Shaer is delighted with his low-energy methods. "This is natural, not man-made," he says. "God has created this mud so people can live. There is no technology. This will be an alternative way for people to survive".