Three Natural and Eco Building Materials Revolutionizing Home Construction
Two of these natural materials are readily available in Sierra Leone.
Fine homes have always made use of natural materials. But these days you can find many products and techniques incorporating tried and true materials in surprising ways. Many of these techniques were used historically and are making a come back. These natural materials appeared in a section of the article “10 Eco Building Materials Revolutionizing Home Construction” on the Elemental Green website
Earth construction is one of the oldest durable techniques for building structures. Think Great Wall of China! These days, it can be seen in luxury homes creating dramatic and durable walls which resemble sedimentary rock.
Rammed earth walls (or even floors) can be used as thermal storage, allowing the sun to warm them in the day and then slowly release the warmth in the cool evenings.
This low-carbon technique uses forms in which soil and binder is placed in layers and then pressure is applied to create a hard and durable surface. And now, Watershed Materials have put this technique into their Watershed Block, which is a replacement for conventional concrete masonry. These blocks use waste materials from quarries to create a low or even zero cement blocks which can be installed by any mason.
Everything old is new again! The pioneers used straw bale construction for their homes in the Great Plains. Now this technique has been updated for the 21st century.
Straw bales are made from the waste of the agricultural industry. It is a substitute for lumber and still sequesters carbon. Just be aware that the walls will be thicker than a conventional stick frame home. These thick well insulated walls offer a very high R Value. Contrary to what you might believe, straw bale homes are resistant to fire and can match your favorite aesthetic.
David Arkin, director of the nonprofit California Straw Building Association (CASBA), sums it up “People will be impressed with how comfortable these homes are. The buildings keep warmer in winter and cooler in summer.”
Bamboo just might be the perfect sustainable alternative to wood. Although it resembles wood aesthetically, bamboo is actually a member of the grass family — meaning bamboo regenerates extremely quickly as compared to trees. In fact, bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants on the planet — depending on the type of bamboo and the region, sometimes up to 3 feet per day!
It’s not just the speedy growth rate that makes bamboo sustainable. For construction purposes, bamboo can be harvested up to every 3 years; in contrast, trees can only be harvested every 25-50 years (depending on the tree species). The rise in popularity of bamboo has helped allow forests to regenerate, and will continue to do so.