Using natural materials in the construction of buildings and homes is nothing new. Elements like bamboo, straw, rammed earth, adobe (sun-baked mud brick) and thatch were all vital in the making of almost every kind of pre-historic building structure. Sustainable materials were in abundance just waiting to be harvested and used—nature at your fingertips. Everything was DYI. If you wanted a home you’d gather what was nearby, get ingenious, and build something solid.
Of course that was prior to the breakthrough of iron and steel and factories and full-time jobs and the transportation boom and the information age. Well folks, the pendulum always swings. There is renewed interest in incorporating those same natural materials into building construction. Not only do they lessen environmental impact but they also offer uniquely random characteristics not found in common material; for example—the stunningly beautiful, inherent surface details of a rammed-earth wall or the sculpted pattern of a troweled adobe floor.
The irony of this swinging pendulum is this: using natural elements like dry vegetation and heather for thatching and straw bales for insulation were employed because they were accessible and low-cost to everyone. Back then the weaving and building and harvesting and dry stacking was up to the common man. Now, a thatched ecologically friendly roof (for example) is actually cost prohibitive because of its labor intensity (assuming that you wouldn’t be thatching yourself) and is thus the choice of more affluent folks. As with all new products and services, eventually the costs will come down and utilizing natural materials will likely become the expectation rather than the exception.
Stay tuned for more on rammed walls.