Friday, June 1, 2007

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 the island of Dominica! 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 the Wiz 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 Dominica 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 the Nature Island herself, at very little cost, instead of waiting until they can buy a few more blocks and bags of cement.

livingdominica: envisioning a day when all will have the home they desire.


Hill said...

Sounds wonderful.

Canuck said...

Here, here!