Sunday, October 16, 2005

Building with earth - ancient technology solving today's problems

Wanda Tucker (see comments under Evening Replay on October 6) intriguingly suggests that the semi-circular structure of the apartment complex in Jasper is reminiscent of the architecture of sites such as Chaco Canyon.

Wonderful idea! I am certainly influenced by the builders of Chaco and Mesa Verde, as well as by the mud-brick buildings of the Middle East, some of which have been standing for thousands of years.

The sensual properties of earthen structures, their graceful lines and earthy scent, nurture the body and spirit.

More, adobe, strawbale, and cob buildings withstand hurricanes and earthquakes very well.Materials are cheap and at hand, and anyone with a strong back can build them.

Interior image of Superadobe home from website

The architect Nader Khalili, who has designed habitat for future NASA moon missions, has designed ingenious emergency housing, as well as beautiful homes such as the one in the photo to the left, and public facilities using earth rammed in sand bags. He calls his structures superadobe.

The technology to live gracefully, in harmony with Earth, in deeply comfortable and less costly environments exists today, as it has for millenia.

Earthen structures work well in a variety of climes. I first learned of cob when I read of a six-hundred year old cob house in England. They've been building them there for centuries. See these photos.

There is at least one cob house in rainy Oregon, and some folks in British Columbia give regular classes on building cob there. A good example is Kate's Cob - Mayne Island B.C..

Photo from Groundworks web site at

To learn how easy--or difficult--it is to build a cob home, check out the tale of this 72-year-old woman, Lois Lewis, who built her own home.

For a capsule view of cob use, read Michael Smith's essay, The History of Cob at Natural Building Colloquiem Southwest.

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