Decades from now, homes built in America and elsewhere around the world might be made of ultra-modern materials like steel and glass. But they also might be made of the most original and natural of materials, the earth materials beneath our feet. Many architects and engineers are taking this idea seriously and taking a fresh look at utilizing building techniques that our Earth's ancient people's used.
Environmentally Friendly and Very Inexpensive
In today's modern society, it's all too common to accept the belief that a building material or method has to be expensive and come from many years of research. Otherwise, it's not worth using, right? Wrong. Modern Society is taking a new look at a marvelous new (or not so new) building material that can be found in abundance everywhere, it's cost efficient in terms of heating and cooling costs, and it's really "just as cheap as dirt."
The truth is, we're talking about dirt, or more specifically, the natural materials found in and around the dirt that covers our planet. When it comes to inexpensive building materials, how much more inexpensive can you get? That's the great point of earth homes. You can't get any cheaper. And we're not talking about living in damp, dark caves either. We're talking about nice homes.
Long Lasting-Look at the Proof
Before you jump to conclusions and assume earth homes cannot survive in the elements (especially in the rain), consider this: Some of the most famous of all structures in various parts of the world are not made of glass and steel, they are made of earth. How about the Great Wall of China, a massive earth structure still standing strong after almost 2,500 years?
How about the great pyramids of Egypt? Mosques in Middle Eastern countries? Or adobe homes in the southwestern U.S. that are at least 100 to 200 years old? All of these examples are proof that earth homes made with the right combination of materials and the right material processing methods can last a very long time.
Some Typical Types of Construction
A common type of earth home in north and South America is what is called the Adobe home. The word adobe can be used to reference a certain design or style of home, but historically speaking the word actually refers to a specific building material used in earth homes. Adobe is a form of brick that is made with a combination of straw, clay and compacted soil. Adobe construction varies from one region to another; in some areas where modern materials are still introduced, Portland cement is added to the mixture for strength. In parts of South America where such materials are not available, fermented cactus juice is added to act as a waterproofing membrane.
Another building technique used in building earth homes is what is called "Rammed earth." This method resembles Adobe homes somewhat. Like Adobe, rammed earth utilizes soil and other ingredients that act as a means to keep water out. But adobe is suitable only in dry climates because the adobe bricks have to dry and cure sufficiently to remain strong. The rammed earth technique involves compacting the soil and natural cement ingredients into forms. After sufficient curing and drying time the forms are removed.
Beneficial and a Worthwhile Option
It's easy to see the environmental and economical benefits of earth homes, but are they really a practical option for family living? The answer to that is an absolute yes. Earth homes stay warmer in the winter because of the natural heat from the ground below. They stay cooler in hot weather.
They are very low maintenance structures and last a very long time as we have examined. They're very safe homes too. Earth homes are naturally fire and termite resistant. And what may be the best benefit of all is that they provide peace and quiet. The materials in earth homes are naturally very good at noise blocking. People who live in earth homes don't have to worry about "keeping up with the Joneses' " because they might not even notice that they're there.
Dwight Smoot writes about all types of earth homes that use our natural resources, save energy and create eco-friendly habitats for all.