To live sustainably is to reside in a green home. A green home is a residential structure that is built with the use of natural building methods that incorporate the use of natural building materials. Natural building techniques are usually labeled as natural building or a building idea that heavily relies on methods and materials that are considered to be ecologically sound, dependent on local skills and resources, culturally sensitive, and are economically accessible by the local residents.
Natural building methods were born in response to the escalating concern for the built environment. Use of natural materials is the best alternative to use of toxic substances that can lead to widespread environmental diseases.
It is believed that using natural building techniques is the answer to the global complex issue of sustainable living. The following are the most common natural building materials that are commonly used today:
Adobe – it is a sun-dried mud brick used to create thick-walled buildings. The thick walls are known as thermal mass and their existence helps in modulating internal temperatures through the absorption of excess heat at daytime and in slow release at nighttime.
Adobe bricks are the best materials to use in areas that are capital-poor and labor-rich. The reason for that is because adobes are labor intensive but cheap kind of materials. The best thing about adobes is that they can be formed differently, which means that they are available in different shapes and sizes.
Cob – This is an old method of monolithic building – which means one-piece building. This process has been proven to be very beneficiary because it requires just a few tools and it can be built by both old and young because it is very simple.
Cordwood – This is a building method that makes use of small sizes of wood to be employed as masonry unit to be mortared with a cement-based tool. To strengthen the material, a sawdust insulation layer placed between internal and external mortar layers.
Earthen Floors – This is a construction technique that makes use of poured or tamped earth mixtures in creating floors and it is currently undergoing a rebirth in US Southwest. These are floors that proved good thermal mass source in the passive solar design. The methods used for earthen floors include use of earth mixtures with beeswax and linseed oil. Earthen floor techniques involved tamping or pouring of several earth mixture layers on top of a substrate of sand, straw-cay, pumice or gravel. Hardening agents are also used and these could include; cement, blood, glue or lime. The mixture needs to dry and if cracks appear they should be refilled with additional mud mixture.
Some builders allow cracks to appear in controlled pattern for a more unique flagstone-like appearance – a tile-effect can also be achieved by carving into the floor. To protect the floor surface after construction, wax is used for coating. There are minor disadvantages though to the use of this technique; first it is easily damaged, second it needs regular maintenance and last it is a labor-intensive building technique.
Straw-Clay – This is a technique of putting clay slip coating over loose straw and then tamping it into form for infilling timber-framed buildings. This natural building method involves covering the frame building structure with thick infill of straw-clay mixture.
Recycled Building Materials – Use of these materials is undoubtedly one of the most cost-efficient and environmental-friendliest natural building methods. Many builders are now reusing old building materials in their attempt to prevent these materials from turning up in the damp sites. Many structures are now effectively rehabilitated and rebuilt using recycled building materials, and the results are not just concentrated on the money saved but also on the effective method of saving the environment. When the building materials used are recycled, use of raw materials is prevented and therefore, earth’s resources are spared from being abused.
The best way to be able to reuse and recycle old building materials is to carefully dismantle the structures to save the bricks, lumber and the other recyclable building materials for use in new projects. Many new homes are built using old barns’ old-growth timber that are still of high quality.
Board products can be made with waste wood. The problem with this technique is that it may require the use of toxic binders to create useful board products from waste wood materials. Other lumber substitutes include use of recycled plastic and sawdust. In some cases, building parts are reused and refurbished in an attempt to save valuable architectural legacy and to create unique resources for the owners and/or builders.