Green Home Building and Sustainable Architecture

Sustainable architecture is an exciting and important field, with many people reviving traditional methods of building and others creating innovations to established practices. Kelly Hart, webmaster of the popular website www.greenhomebuilding.com, posts text and photos featuring what he discovers from around the world.

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Location: Crestone, Colorado, United States

Kelly Hart has been involved with green building concepts for much of his life. He has also worked in various fields of communication media, including still photography, cinematography, animation, video production and now website development. Kelly has lived in an earthbag/papercrete home that he built and consults about sustainable building design.

April 14, 2009

Internet Radio Show Appearance

I was a guest on an internet radio talk show Wednesday, April 15, 2009 in the afternoon, discussing topics related to green home building: http://truthbrigade.com/

If you miss the live show, it will be archived at http://recordings.talkshoe.com/TC-11887/TS-212923.mp3

I don't actually make my appearance on the show until about 20 minutes into it.

April 12, 2009

Toxic Drywall and the Ills of Modern Building

I just read this article about the toxic effects of new houses that used drywall material shipped from China to the US in the last few years. Many people are getting quite sick and can no longer live in these contaminated homes. Nobody quite understands exactly what the cause is, except that the suspect drywall seems to emit toxic sulfuric fumes, especially under hot and humid conditions. These fumes are so corrosive that they can turn copper pipes black. It is estimated that at least 100,000 homes are likely affected by this problem, many of them built during the height of the housing boom when domestic drywall material was harder to find.

Wow. What a devastating example of the imbalance that exists in our modern times. Contractors, wanting to provide more wealth for themselves and those buyers who expected to soon turn around and make a profit on the houses they bought, turned to Chinese producers of building products. To meet the demand the Chinese carelessly threw together raw materials that appeared to be safe enough to use and shipped them across the ocean to the eager market. Everybody was making money...so why not?

Compare this to a more wholesome, sustainable scenario, where only local, natural materials are used for building, and speculation is not driving the economy. This never would have happened.

Thousands of lives are being ruined by this situation, through loss of health and economic loss, paying for houses that cannot be safely lived in. What a double whammy! The author of the article assumed that these houses would eventually have to be torn down to deal with the problem; I doubt that this is true since it is quite possible to pull out all of the drywall and start over with that phase of the construction, which is actually one of the last stages of building. Still, the impact is enormous.

If anything is to be learned from this, it should be that we need to take a serious look at how we go about using resources and making money.

April 09, 2009

Natural Building in Korea

Professor Sunny Cai, who teaches architectural design at a college in Beijing, China, sent me some wonderful photos of traditional earthen buildings he photographed while on a recent trip to Korea. Sunny is especially interested in various forms of rammed earth, so I presume that these mostly represent that form. The stone structure appears to have been mortared with earth.

April 01, 2009

Time to Learn about Natural Living

We are fast approaching the prime season for learning how to live more sustainably. This summer there will be opportunities galore to take a workshop nearby that will give you hands-on experience and understanding of a wide range of topics.

I have assembled dozens of these workshop and training sessions at one convenient place: www.greenhomebuilding.com. They are listed chronologically with enough information to give you a sense of whether they might be appropriate for you. If you don't find something there, I have also listed many places that have on-going workshops throughout the year at www.greenhomebuilding.com/education.

There are workshops about renewable energy that feature training about photovoltaic, wind, and hydro electric generation. Solar hot water for domestic use is also covered.

The theory and practice of passive solar architecture is taught, along with household energy efficiency in general.

Water conservation techniques, waste water treatment, compost toilets, water systems, and permaculture, are all featured topics at various venues.

In the realm of "natural building" there are many workshops about cob, timber framing, earthbags, earthen plasters, strawbale, stone masonry, cordwood, and green roofs.

There is no better way to learn some of the basics of all of this than by actually trying it out with your own hands. You will soon discover whether a technique is something you would like to use for one of your own projects. And there is the fun of joining with other folks to help each other learn. The instructors are mostly professionals who have dedicated their lives to learning and teaching the various techniques.

If you don't have the time or inclination to participate in such workshops, then you might enjoy attending one of the many expos or conferences that are listed along with the workshops. Much can be learned from browsing the exhibits and sitting in on presentations.

However you do it, there is no better time than now to find out more about how you can become more sustainable in the ways that you live!