Earth Homes – Eco Housing IS here!
Earth-ships, Super Adobe, Cob, Straw Bale, Vernacular architecture. These are some of the words to describe non conventional forms of “eco” building. Culturally, we see indigenous societies culling local resources to build their community. Nomads using Yurts to create temporary homes, Alaskian Inuits use of the “Iglu” during winter months, American Indians (amongst other cultures) using the “Tipi” for shelter. Around the world there are large number of natural resources used to build homes, primarily in indigenous cultures. The common base is simple: Earth made materials. Trees, bamboo, stones, mud ….
“Frank Lloyd Wright described vernacular architecture as “Folk building growing in response to actual needs, fitted into environment by people who knew no better than to fit them with native feeling”.
As the lack of affordable housing grows more prominent, we’ve already seen the growth of foreclosures in recent years, home and apartment rentals aren’t that much better in the housing market. I know we shudder at the fact of how much has been paid out in one’s life towards rent, let alone a mortgage, would be enough to have owned 1-2 homes.
Individuals and families are now finding themselves downsizing the way they live. Moving into smaller homes, living with family members, roommates (now how many have we ALL had?). One’s independence for living is becoming sacrificed all for the sake of affordable housing. We can partly thank the government for this and the rising costs of property taxes!
Well, enough of my socio-political rant. I want to share about the simple ideals of building a earth resourced home. The first step is change your thinking. Think resources that are readily available such as recycled earth material (paper, wood, glass) earth (yes, I mean dirt), mud, sand. It’s all there to be used. Take workshops. Plenty of sources online to learn about building with earth and recycled materials. Natural homes, Cal Earth Institute, Cob Cottage Have access to a plot of land. You won’t need much (based on needs) if you properly plan your design. Understand the materials you are working with. Find out it’s strengths and weaknesses, then build from there. Most important is creating a community of people who support your beliefs in building your home. There is a learning curve that comes in building such a structure, but that comes from the knowledge and experience you have and will gain from such an endeavor. Also the satisfaction of saying that you built and/or took part in creating a place to call home! Not many people can say that these days.
I attended a open house/lecture at Cal Earth Institute in Hesperia, Ca. and was just amazed by the use of earth elements to create homes that have a unique character and healthy energy. CEI calls it Super Adobe technology. Filling low resistance UV sandbags with the appropriate amount of earth, water, and sand (mud) that hardens to a cement base and reinforced with barbed wire! Unmovable and highly durable these Super Adobe homes have been tested to withstand earthquakes and various storms, including hurricanes. The CEI design philosophy is incorporating structure design elements (arches, dome, vaults) which is then reinforced using Super Adobe. Combining these support systems is the strength to these homes.
I photographed a few of the interior and exterior structures at CEI. From early prototypes of fired glazed domes to the primitive-like design of the Super Adobe structures including a 3 Vaulted home (pictured above) with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. A vault dome design with a mix mix of modern style.
What a unique experience to see how these homes start from the earth to become a symbol of sustainable living and strength. I hope those who view this post become inspired to consider eco living. Only those who are open minded and not for the faint of heart.