Building an Affordable Home From Earthen Materials

A guide to building an affordable home from earthen materials, including the pros and cons of adobe, cob, rammed-earth and soil-filled tire techniques.

| April/May 2002

Learn about building an affordable home from earthen materials. Homes made from natural, earthen materials are affordable, comfortable, sustainable and enduring.

Homes made from earthen materials are affordable, comfortable, sustainable and enduring. Building an affordable home from earthen materials requires specific techniques. Here are the pros and cons of adobe, cob, rammed-earth and soil-filled tire techniques.

In the rain-drenched landscape of Cottage Grove, Oregon, Ianto Evans and Linda Smiley live in a delightful little cottage fashioned from a most unlikely material, a mix of mud and straw, known as cob. Their home is warm, cozy and comfortable — not at all what you might think of a dwelling made out of . . . well, dirt.

Ianto and Linda are two of a growing legion of people worldwide who are embracing earth building, a centuries-old tradition of architecture and construction. This unlikely band of Earth heroes is helping to forge more sustainable homebuilding techniques.

Building homes from earthen materials has a long, illustrious past. For virtually all of history, our ancestors lived in shelter fashioned from locally available materials, especially earth. Today, approximately half the world's people still inhabit dwellings made with soils harvested from the Earth's crust.

Why Build a Home With Earth?

For one. earthen homes are clean, come and beautiful — even breathtaking. The thick. solid walls create a sense of comfort and security. Walls made of earth am not only strong, they are capable of re insects, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and fire. They have the very real potential to last hundreds of years.

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