With environmental education and awareness came the need for more eco-friendly and sustainable building methods. It called for people to think out of the box and come up with what we are able to implement today.
Alternative building methods have become more popular due to their often lower cost, novelty, durability, and non-toxicity. A few methods is of alternative buildings are adobe/mud house, earth sheltered homes (hobbit houses), yurts, earth-bag buildings, and modular homes along with pre-fab construction. Innovative and far-thinking architect, Hassan Fathy is particularly influential in bringing insights and techniques on alternative buildings to light.
Adobe construction is one of the oldest techniques used. Its use can be tracked all the way back to the 1st century A.D. Rome, and likely thrived thousand of years before that. This technique involves the molding of bricks made of clay while they were still wet and were casted small enough to be able to shrink whit drying without the possibility of cracking.
Because these structures were able to soak up solar heat, they were cool during the warm days and warm during the cooler nights.
Today, Adobe building techniques are meshed together with modern building methods to, in the end, create a greener, more energy efficient building.
Another alternative method being used is that of the incorporation of bamboo. Bamboo is known to be strong and is able to replace wood and even steel in construction. Bamboo buildings and other structures are suitable for locations with a tropical warm climate. Otherwise they would be an inappropriate building technique in chilly places. Imagine a bamboo hut in Chicago?! Surely not, such structures thrive in places like Bali and Southeast Asia.
Alternative building methods offer more diversity of buildings than commercial building methods.
Because bamboo grows at such a fast rate, it is a renewable and very efficient building material. It is used in the construction of prefabricated homes and, because bamboo is grown with very few or none pesticides, it is environmentally friendly as well.
It is very notable that construction techniques are turning to the past to find safer and better alternatives than the damaging methods we tend to use today. Examples of this are natural plasters used and even compressed air blocks.
In the end, why fix something that was not broken to begin with. When homes and other buildings were constructed before the common use of electricity in homes, the buildings were efficient. They were designed to use the environment to its advantage.
Other alternative building methods include cob, an ancient technique, cast earth construction, Corwood construction and the use of light straw-clay. Cob is a great building material, very insulative, yet it is extremely labor intenstive and will require maintenence throughout the years to patch up the naturally occuring cracks. For this reason cob is used along with other building materials, or used soley for smaller structures such as a bench.
Apart from alternative building methods, new homes are also equipped with energy efficient equipment. The incorporation of energy efficient equipment such as solar panels and electric, tankless water heaters, ensures that homes are kept up and running at minimum cost and minimum energy use.
In the long run, alternative building methods combined with new technology and energy efficient equipment, will reduce the cost of the maintenance of a home as well as minimize the environmental impact development has.
There are many alternative building methods and there is no limits, except for your own creativity, when it comes to what you can choose benefit the environment as well as your family. -ANNABEL SCHOEMAN