Concrete is not eco-friendly. It is the one factor that binds buildings and cities. It comes with a dirty secret. The production of concrete spews tons of greenhouse gas- carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It is a major contributor to climate change.
It does not have to be this way. There are altrnative sustainable alternatives, greeener that would harm the environment a lot less.
Eskimos build igloos. These gents featured here have gone the same way. All address environmental concerns.
1. Earthships- The Ultimate in Eco-friendly sustainable materils
The brainchild of Michael Reynolds a New Mexican architect, Earthships are an amazing design concept and are best described as a passive solar house that promotes sustainability.
The energy crunch of the 1970s was what prompted Reynolds to come up with his stunning idea. He pioneered the construction of structures that were environmentally friendly. The use of nonrenewable resources to support modern living was shunned.
The interior of an Earthship, showing the recycled material used in its construction.
Image: Jenny Parkins
Reynold’s Earthships use solar panels, wind turbines, and generators that run on biodiesel. These generate sufficient energy for cooling and heating. In addition, each Earthship features a giant cistern that transfers rainwater to a Water Management Module, a water harvesting system that purifies the water for drinking. The wastewater goes to plants outside and inside the building. These plants bolster Reynold’s goal of creating structures that fit in naturally with the surroundings.
Rear walls of Earthships have earth covering that ensures maximum sustainability. Where possible, they are directly built into hillsides to generate passive energy. In addition, the Northern hemisphere faces south to absorb the entire heat, and the material of the slanting walls is glass, which is seldom used elsewhere in the structure.
Exterior walls are two tiers of recycled aluminum cans separated by an insulative air gap and covered with adobe. A plugging of recycled cans or bottles of interior walls seals any concave surfaces. Since tires present a fire hazard, a covering of stucco, plaster, or adobe cover interior walls.
Earthships are built below the frost line, thus allowing an interior temperature of 15.5𝆩 C (60𝆩 F) regardless of the ambient temperature outdoors.
The structure’s design is to absorb the heat during the day and release it gradually after sunset, maintaining a healthy balance.
You can build your own Earthship for under $100,000 in consultation with Reynold’s firm, Earthship Biotecture.
The movement has made inroads into Canada. Wildfires do not pose a risk as Earthships are near fireproof. Minimal operational costs and self-sufficiency are major selling points.
Other improvisations considering the harsh winters involved roof insulation, vapor barriers between wall and floor, composting toilets, a solar hot water tank, an insulated cold box in place of a refrigerator, and a wood stove.
The movement to promote Earthships is gaining momentum in many countries having a temperate climate, such as The Netherlands, Belgium, Argentina, and the UK.
Earthships are 100% sustainable.
Picture Credits: https://in.pinterest.com/
2. Salt, an indeginous Eample of Eco-friendly Sustainable Materials
Fortunes have been made trading in salt. (Read my post- Mansa Musa-The Richest Man Who Ever Lived, https://wordpress.com/pohttps://wp.me/pcEHUX-14mst/seadog.in/4114 ) In Europe, it was so short that a soldier paid in salt. The word ‘salary’ originated thus.
In the Bolivian highlands is Altiplano, a high plateau with 3,663 m (12,018 feet). Located here is the Salar de Uyuni, the most extensive salt flats globally, covering some 10,000 sq. km. It rains barely here, about 1-3mm spiking to 80mm in January.
To build a structure with salt would be foolhardy as it would wash out with the first rain, not so in the Altiplano.
The Palacio de Sal Resort stands on the edge of the Salar de Uyuni plain. It has 17 rooms and also the furniture is made entirely of salt.
It is easy to build a house with salt. Cut salt blocks, the edges moistened, and presto, they fuse.
The next stop is Texas- The Grand Saline, the seat of the salt industry and the name of the town. The salt industry dates back o 1845. A 16,000 feet salt deposit lies beneath Grand Saline, enough it is estimated to last 20,000 years. Mining of salt is there till today.
The Grand Saline is home to The Sea Palace, the fourth one built here. Constructed entirely of rock salt, The Salt Palace is a museum now still.
The Salt home designed entirely of rock salt, is now a small museum dedicated to salt mining memorabilia, photographs, and a short film about underground mining operations at 750 feet. Visitors can’t resist licking the walls.
3. Paper- A Super eco-friendly building alternative
Way back in 1922, Elis Stenman started building a home from newspapers. The house’s frame is timber- everything else tightly glued newspaper coated with varnish. The paper lends excellent insulation, and the varnish lends rigidity preventing the structure from collapsing into mush.
The make of furniture is also newspaper.
Elis Stenman was a visionary and much ahead of the times. He wished to highlight the waste of society. He was a mechanical engineer.
Located in Rockport, Massachusetts, his house survived 90 years of wind, sun, and inclement weather. Then, during the 1940s, its’ transformation into a museum began driven by tourist craze and curiosity.
Everything started as a hobby.
Elis designed his home like any other- a framework of timber. Building the walls came next. He sat down with old newspapers and glued them on 10,000 to get a wall thickness of 2.5 cm (one inch). He did not stop there—furniture, chairs, tables, bookshelves, curtains, a clock, all newspaper. For obvious reasons, the fireplace was traditional.
The last one came up in 1993 and lasts.
Picture Credits: https://www.amusingplanet.com/2017/01/the-house-made-of-newspapers.html
4. Bales – eco-friendly and Solid
The use of straw bales in building homes harks back to the era when naturally found local materials straw bales found favor. For one, they are very insulating.
A frame of wood was the primary need- all other materials such as concrete, gypsum, stone, fiberglass, plaster were not acceptable. Appropriately sealed, straw bales provide excellent insulation whether the climate is cold or hot, depending on the sealing.
Straw bales are highly sustainable as straw is a highly renewable resource.
The University of Bath was the first to head an EU-funded program to develop straw houses. In collaboration with a specialty architecture firm called ModCell. Bristol was the location of the first series of homes.
At first glance, one cannot distinguish these homed fabricated from more conventional materials.
The frames consist of prefab timber stuffed with straw-filled wooden panels. A brick finish completes the structure maintaining the aesthetic.
The strawbales provide a degree of insulation that the University of Bath will reduce 90% in energy costs for homeowners.
It takes just 3 tons of straw to build a 3-bedroom house. In addition, straw is a very durable material. As for fire worries, Tests reveal that the fire endurance of straw far out parallels many forms of construction.
MadCell vouches that the reduction of carbon is remarkable.
Photo Credit: https://inhabitat.com/hedge-an-amazing-san-francisco-art-space-made-of-straw-bales/
5. Eco-friendly Plastic
In a world ravaged by plastic usage, this is an area where the use of recycled plastic calls for a hearty clap. Several buildings have been constructed using plastic bottles: These buildings benefit from low cost and excellent insulation. Air, by nature, is an efficient insulator. So, sealed bottles of air keep heat out or in as desired.
Plastic resists biodegradation, so they are long-lasting. Sadly, impoverished nations have used plastic bottles so far.
Environment protocols come and go, but how many nations ratify them. Think about that.
Many homes in poor nations use scrap iron and corrugated metal to fit the description of appalling and dinghy.
A global, grassroots movement calle “Liter Of Light,” focuses on using cheap materials that are available ready to cater primarily to people with limited or no access to electricity. Repurposing plastic bottles is one of their innovative solutions. One instance is cutting a hole in the roof of shantytown dwellings and inserting a plastic bottle to allow light to enter where the access to electricity is a shortcoming.
Read more about them at https://literoflight.org/. It is truly astonishing.
Another use of converting waste plastic into remarkable innovative recycled designs is the brainchild of Lucas Couto, an industrial designer from Norway. In collaboration with Precious Plastic, a recycling firm made inroads into the design space with the potential of plastic waste.
Precious Plastic teaches people how to develop their own recycling company and churn out large colorful sheets from plastic waste that can be made into different products such as construction pieces and furniture.
Author’s unneeded endpiece- This piece took a tremendous amount of research. I need go up to the mountains but I came back from the airport. It’ dreary and miserable up there.
So, like the late Leonard Cohen suggested, ” The moon is too bright,the shackles too tight…….”
Hey, I disagree.
Life is beatiful. C Major.