Earth and stone call to me


For years I have been fascinated with alternative green building techniques. I’ll bet I own the only set of video tapes on straw bale construction on my island! When we lived in the states I had really wanted to build with straw bales, but alas, no straw is baled on this tropical island. So what is a woman craving green building to do? Stone and Earth.

I have been reading a series of interesting books about stone work and earth architecture. According to the various authors, even someone with limited building skills like Mr. Wizard and I should be able to manage some sort of rudimentary structure. It helps a great deal that this climate does not require the complex attributes of a North American building. No insulation, no heat or central A/C. It is a simple place and buildings can be simple here also.

Stone, cob, earth bag. I learned today that over 1/3 of the earth’s population live in earthen homes. Some very old multistory earth houses are still in use after centuries in Britain. Why, then, do we more commonly build soulless houses of plastic and toxic materials? Home building has been taken away from the owners of homes and given to professionals who tell us what we should want: an enormous house on land stripped of trees, quickly erected of material designed for making a series of boxes. Not lovely to my eyes.

I love the curves and hollows of organic material. Nothing pleases me more than the curve of a finely wrought stone wall. This is a sharp contrast to the concrete box houses more commonly built. I wonder why people build with concrete blocks when there is so much available stone. And people can build amazing houses with earth, like the cob house above. Within reach of the poorest land owner is a home which should last centuries and be beautiful as well.

There is a green architectural movement afoot empowering the poor to build sturdy, sustainable homes of low or no cost materials. I dream that perhaps my poor island may pick up the banner of sustainable architecture and lead the way in the green building revolution. I can imagine the people here all living in charming houses built of earth, at very little cost, instead of waiting until they can buy a few more blocks and bags of cement.

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3 Responses to “Earth and stone call to me”

  1. knitlanders Says:

    Good post! The fact that you don’t have to worry about insulation or heating is certainly a huge advantage. In our strawbale/timberframe home-building project in Vermont , these are some of the biggest concerns we face.

    Of course, we’re lucky that strawbale is such a fit because of it’s insulative properties, but the deep shadows from the windowsills mean that we’re looking at another material for the South wall of the house. I wonder what percentage of the earth’s population doesn’t need heating or cooling? I imagine it’s pretty low – the lucky few I guess!

  2. Jen Says:

    We had planned to build with strawbale when we lived up North, but here earthbag seems to be the perfect medium.

    One of the reasons we chose to live here is ability to live without heating and cooling. That and the possibility of eating locally grown foods!

  3. E.M.Suanno Says:

    I’ve admired the structured pictured here for years, since seeing it on the cover of a book. It’s actually a cob barn, in France, with a lovely planted garden roof. Beautiful. 🙂

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