Doing things better not the same as doing better things
Throughout history we have collectively refined ideas and technologies, even those with significant hurdles (such as the automobile, with the vast infrastructure required to support its use and its devastating toll on humans and the environment). We’re good at improving the micro-considerations, but generally terrible at intentionally setting macro-goals.
In the realm of building materials, cement followed the standard development arc. Early cement products were extremely labor- and fuel-intensive and far from reliable, but the benefits of having a quick-setting material that is easily formed and potentially strong encouraged us to work through all kinds of issues to arrive at this moment; the modern cement industry now offers well-formulated products that are widely available and cost-effective. Many of the “alternative solutions” presented later in this blog are at the beginning of that same development curve; this doesn’t make them impractical or impossible to implement, but it does require an acknowledgement that there is improvement to come in the future. The day may not be that far away when a builder can order a highly specialized clay plaster or clay floor mix from a local batching plant and have it delivered and placed with the same degree of mechanization as concrete! This is already true in Japan; it could just as easily happen here.
Personalize the solution
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Looking at building solutions through a wider, ecological perspective can radically change how we consider our options on an individual basis. But each homeowner and builder will have their own unique outlook and therefore make different choices. In the next section of the blog, we will look at developing a personalized list of specific criteria, and attempting to keep the widest possible perspective on the impacts our choices might have on ourselves, our children, and generations to come.
There is no reason that ecologically friendly, clay-based building materials can’t be produced, delivered, and used with the same efficiency enjoyed by concrete materials.
WANT A BEAUTIFUL, AFFORDABLE, COMFORTABLE, HEALTHY GREEN HOME.” On this kind of premise, thousands of people set out to make their dream home a reality. In many cases, the prospective homeowners have looked around and found the conventional offerings to be lacking, and decided to forge ahead and do it themselves. Though the desire for such a home is a basic and simple one, the execution is most definitely not. If we are going to make this dream come true, we must first begin by understanding exactly what it is we are trying to achieve.
A lot of us find it easiest to define our sustainable housing ideas in the negative, as a reaction against the type of conventional housing we commonly see. It is easy to demonize the modern construction industry. From our current vantage point, the homes it produces have many measurably negative effects on the environment, on occupants, and on society. But really, the industry has spent a half-century or so doing exactly what regulators and the buying public has asked them to do. The industry didn’t develop with the express intention of spreading ecological and social ruin and destruction — though in the pursuit of the collective goals we have set for our housing needs, much has been ruined and destroyed.