12 Days of Xmas – 7 ways of building

Happy New Year. We’re doing the 12 days of Christmas appropriate technology style.

Day 7: 7 ways of buildings

1. THE CONCRETE HOUSE: How green is concrete? from Inhabitat

Worldwide, concrete is the most widely-used construction material with over ten billion tons produced annually. In the US, the dubious manufacturing process churns out over two tons of concrete per person per year with a heavy CO2 burden – in total about 7% of global CO2 emissions come from concrete production.

At the same time, the material possesses a unique structural efficiency and inherently green qualities like a capacity to reduce recurring embodied energy, high solar thermal performance, low maintenance requirements and high durability. Variations of concrete with high solar reflectance are considered for heat island mitigation, and with no-offgassing, concrete is an interior finish that meets IAQ standards. Substituting Portland cement with fly ash, using recycled aggregate and a locally fabricated supply can reduce concrete’s environmental impact.

2. Two opinions of insulated concrete forms as a building material

Insulated Concrete Forms from Green Building Elements

Insulated Concrete Forms: Another Opinion

The comments are particularly good with the second post. Overall Lloyd Alter of Treehugger found ICF’s to be “architectural overkill”, while others note their striking ability to withstand natural disasters.

A nice example of ICF’s are monolithic domes.

3. Woodless Construction [in Burkina Faso] from Under the Acacias via Sociolingo

Woodless construction is an approach to building in the sahel that uses traditional building techniques to build houses entirely out of mud, including the roof. Such houses save on scarce wood, encourage local industry by using local skills and materials, and provide good internal comfort, staying warm in cold season, and cool in hot season.

4. A House With No Nails: Building a Timber-Frame Home from Popular Mechanics

(definitely scroll through the article to see all the pics)

Timber frame lede

Who needs nails? The ancient art of framing a house with huge beams, chisels, mallets and pegs is being revived with a high-tech twist. The results: a timeless house — built in record time.

Anatomy of a timberframe house

The timber-frame difference comes from massive wooden components joined in a cathedral-like framework that requires no interior load-bearing walls. Girts, plates and purlins tie the posts and rafters together, while diagonal knee braces add rigidity. Factory-built structural insulated panels (SIPs) are roof, walls, insulation and window framing all in one.


Duration: 2min 33sec

This is a wood framing technology, originally from Japan, that I led the effort to transfer to the USA. Essentially a small group of untrained people can erect an entire house frame in 1-3 days, depending on the size of the structure.

5. ASK INHABITAT: Is imported bamboo really sustainable? from Inhabitat

Bamboo is rapidly-renewable, restoring itself for use in just five years, and requires far less energy to harvest and produce than most ‘lumber’ products. Bamboo also has an incredible range of product- from flooring to cabinetry, drapery, and in your case, furniture. Its production and by-products yield healthy, salvageable materials that continue to be used in new ways.

See Also:
Modular Bamboo Home by Gau Designs & Concepts from Jetson Green

I missed this story from Sustainable Design Update on Structural Bamboo for bridges.

6. Heineken World Bottle: Beer to Bricks! from Design Verb

Heineken WOBO Bottle

“Upcycling is a 21st century term, coined by Cradle to Cradle authors William McDonough and Michael Braungart, but the idea of turning waste into useful products came to life brilliantly in 1963 with the Heineken WOBO (world bottle). Envisioned by beer brewer Alfred Heineken and designed by Dutch architect John Habraken, the “brick that holds beer” was ahead of its ecodesign time, letting beer lovers and builders alike drink and design all in one sitting.

Mr. Heineken’s idea came after a visit to the Caribbean where he saw two problems: beaches littered with bottles and a lack of affordable building materials. The WOBO became his vision to solve both the recycling and housing challenges that he had witnessed on the islands.”

See more from Wikipedia Bottle Wall

Thanks PigBrain

7. Meet: Alex White Plume from Post Vacuous

In 2000, Alex White Plume, a Lakota Sioux living on the reservation decided to grow industrial hemp as a means of making money for his family and creating housing on the reservation (by making “hempcrete”, a concrete product that is lighter and stronger than normal concrete and several other materials). Keep in mind, this is industrial hemp, and not marijuana. You cannot get high from it because it has no THC and it’s legal to possess the dried and processed form. Growing hemp, however, is still illegal, and the Federal Government had other plans in store for Alex White Plume.

See also Standing Silent Nation from PBS’ POV

PBS' POV Standing Silent Nation

A bit more background on hemp from USA Today

Growing hemp used to be legal in the USA. During World War II, the government urged farmers to grow it for much-needed rope and textiles. But in 1970, Congress designated hemp — along with marijuana and heroin — as a “Schedule 1” drug under the Controlled Substances Act, making it illegal to grow hemp without a license from the DEA.

Today, the USA is the only developed nation that has not established hemp as a crop, the Congressional Research Service says. Great Britain lifted its ban in 1993; Germany did so in 1996 and Canada followed two years later. The European Union has subsidized hemp production since the 1990s.

Related Posts

Convenient Truth Entry: The Power of Straw
Beautiful fractals in African Building [Video, TED]
Building with Bottles at AIDG Guatemala
New Uses for Old Shipping Containers (Photo & Video)