As housing prices rise and people become more concerned about their environmental footprints, green construction has been gaining popularity. Green construction can include mainstream features, like a green roof, or more unique material, such as wood pallets. In general, though, what makes a building eco-friendly are the materials that go into the structure and the attention paid to energy usage in its design. Green builders use recycled or low-impact components to create energy-efficient homes, and you can construct green homes in any number of ways, using materials like reclaimed shipping containers or even clay and straw. This month, we look at some unique, eco-friendly alternative homes.
Cob House – No, they have nothing to do with corn cobs. In green construction, cob refers to a mixture of earth and straw, similar to the adobe homes you might see in the American southwest. Cob is generally an inexpensive and versatile material that allows builders to shape walls in any particular fashion they fancy. While adobe is usually formed into bricks or blocks, cob is unique in that it is applied in large handfuls to form the desired structure. Typical cob homes have unique, rounded features that almost appear to be made out of clay, and that is because they are! Also, cob is much sturdier or more robust than previously thought. Some cob homes in England, circa 19th century, are still standing today.
Straw Bale – Bales of straw are typically seen as natural and inexpensive, as well as providing for excellent insulation. This in turn makes straw-bale construction an economical green-building method. Since straw is a natural by-product of grain farming, it often goes to waste in most cases, thus utilising it in construction is a great way to recycle it. Straw-bale construction is also extremely versatile. Since straw bales are either used to construct the frame or as insulation in conjunction with a wooden frame, the house itself can look however you want it to be. And most certainly no “big bad wolf” is going to blow down this house of straw! Most straw-bale houses use recycled steel beams or bamboo-rods to support the bale.