Truly green home building techniques and materials are based in a philosophy that dates back to the 1960s. Back in the sixties there was a growing concern for ecology and also for fairness and equality in society. We are seeing a resurgence of this type of thinking in 2011. There has been a tremendous shift in thinking just in recent months, and that trend will no doubt only grow, and with it will be a virtual groundswell of green home building.
How things are different in 2011 and 2012
In the sixties green home building was repressed by home building codes, but today government is on board for many green techniques. Regulations have been created which allow, and even encourage green techniques. Due to our government’s desire to stop dependence on foreign oil, and the growing concerns for our environment, they are willing to allow people to build green.
The building codes of the last decade have failed to truly protect consumers. In fact those who are familiar with the history of construction will quickly recognize that the quality of construction has done nothing but decline since the advent of stick built only building codes. It is not that building codes are flawed, only that they restricted any sort of creativity involving building materials or techniques. Building inspectors notoriously failed to check behind “experienced” builders, and that led to cheating on standards. Standards lowered in an effort to make housing affordable as well.
Many of the homes built in the last half of the 20th century will not outlive the homes of the previous centuries. Most of them are not noteworthy enough to save, compared to the beautiful architecture of historic homes and only twenty or thirty years into their lifespan they are failing structurally.
Green homebuilders recognized, even back in the 1960s that their contemporary buildings were expensive, wasteful, and not built to last. They believed that housing should be inexpensive, smaller and more sturdily built than the traditional two by four stick built homes of their day. They also mocked the brick ranch style homes as uncreative and impractical because of the cost and inefficiency.
• Natural materials, wood, straw, earth, and stone
• Renewable materials, fast growing plants
• Readily available materials, such as earth and straw
• Reducing Waste, cutting materials efficiently
• Recycled Materials, papercrete for example
• Salvaged Materials, taking materials from demolition sites
• Affordable Homes, everyone should be able to afford their own home
• Energy efficiency, avoiding the waste of fuel
• Safe environment, the absence of toxic materials
• Local Materials, to avoid shipping
• Sustainability of resources
• Renewable energy and independence from the power grid
• Independence from society and self sufficiency
• Creativity and uniqueness
• Durability, not disposable houses.
There are of course other values which are to be considered but these are the main ones. Green building was an outgrowth of the 1960s culture. It was a beautiful movement, but bred from a mistrust of the greater system. It was a cry for independence from the corporations, and creating an interdependence of people on one another. It is important to remember the context of green building techniques, so that we do not lose the ideology in a mere concern for a lower electric bill.
Green building was intended to provide for the population in any circumstances, and again today we see a need to create a lifestyle that can sustain no matter what else happens. It is also about creating unique and special structures which were truly the homeowner’s own. Green building was intended to set the home owner free from huge mortgage payments, free from dependence on the power grid, and free to construct their own home in whatever way they saw fit, with whatever materials were readily available and affordable. Green builders met with a lot of resistance, especially in the United States, but the idea has continued. In the past decade, green building has leapt from the pages of Mother Earth News, and Popular Science, and into reality. Many of the restrictive laws have been removed, and those that remain can be worked around.
There are many green techniques and more are just waiting to be discovered. Ferro-cement has evolved into insulated concrete, and the techniques for building with insulated concrete are perhaps the most promising of all green styles. Another technique that is gaining favor is the use of used shipping containers for homes. There are many green home kits, and plans, but perhaps the best green plans are the ones you work out for yourself. Look around you for materials that are readily available to you and consider how a home could be constructed from them. Stretch the current technology in the areas of solar energy, and create an off the grid home. Green home building techniques are about using your mind, not your wallet to create homes, and with so many people running out of cash, this is obviously welcome news for many. For more information on green home building techniques please download our free 98 page free book and see the many articles on this site featuring green building.