Build with earth. Why?
Economical and Social Reasons
When we build a house the main expenses are the building materials, the labour and the permissions (bureaucracy).
To build with earth means to almost eliminate the costs of the materials because earth is very cheap to buy and it is free if it comes from your land.
If there is not enough earth on your land try to ask some construction companies that work in your city. They often have earth, which comes from the foundations of the house they are building, and they usually don’t know where to dispose it. In this case you would even do them a favor by taking the earth away.
Depending on the clay content of your soil, you can optimize itfor building by adding some sand or some other kind of earth.
Once you have got your main material, you can start building without going through industrial processes and complicated energy hungry product transformations.
By eliminating the costs of the materials the only ones left are those for the labour and for the bureaucracy.
The construction of an earth house is labour intensive nevertheless the simplicity of the technique is particularly suited to a self construction approach, lowering therefore the labour costs.
The owners and even their kids can actually build their own house.
I personally know people who built their house with their children and grandchildren.
I can bring the example of Robert who built his 35 square meter earth house in Spain with the help of his wife and a few volunteers. Robert built his house with only 6000 euros (7500 euros after adding the money he spent to feed the volunteers).
This example proves that it is possible to build a house without spending a lot of money.
If you prefer to pay someone to construct your house it is important to be aware where you are directing your money.
By choosing an earth house you are directing your money toward your own community. whereas in the case of a standard modern house good part of your money take international paths, in the latter case in fact you are financing big corporations and international building materials producers, which tend not to reinvest their money on your territory or community. This condition impoverishes our internal economy.
By directing the money which we would spend on materials toward the local labour only we are not only creating jobs but we are investing on our community because this money will probably circulate within the community itself.
An earth house is more affordable than a conventional house making perhaps a mortgage not necessary, nevertheless even if we need to take a mortgage it would be much lower than the amount we would need for a conventional house.
The length of a mortgage has a strong impact on the quality of life.
A mortgage isn't only a commitment to pay some money every month for 25-30 years, but it means accepting to live in fear for one third of our life, fear of loosing the job, fear that the system might collapse. A never ending race we can't afford to slow down.
Living without these fears doesn't only affect the level of stress,which concerns the psychophysical health of a person, but it means being more resistant to manipulation.
It is well known that fear has always been used to control the masses.
To have the ability and the capacity to provide for those basic needs that sustain our life make us less dependent from external events and decisions, therefore more resilient to changes.
I would like to point out something quite important: there aren't many individuals who can produce cement, in the sense that they know how to do it and have the means to do it on an industrial scale. Therefore, the “king” material of the modern building technology, is concentrated in the hands of a few.
So we can say that almost all the buildings that will be built in our countries, will have to “pass” in a way in the hands of those few, as it inevitably happened for the buildings built in the past.
In contrast to the exclusive production of cement, earth is available for everyone who can dig it from the land. This means to distribute to a larger amount of people the knowledge and the capacity to produce the raw material used for the construction of our houses.
Building an earth house means not using polluting industrial products, which require large amounts of energy to be produced.
The industrial processes directly or indirectly pollute the earth, the air and the water.
It is important to be aware that this has a strong impact on our health, the health of the next generations and of all the living creatures.
So, when it is possible, it would be wise to follow less destructive paths.
The earth used to build a house is usually taken from the building site or not far away from it, this potentially make the earth a “zero kilometres” building material, which means that there is almost no energy used for transportation.
The earth doesn't need to go through industrial processes.
Once we have obtained the earth by digging, and, if necessary, mixing it with sand or other kind of soil, the only thing left is to wet it, work it and use it.
If we compare the simplicity of this method with the production process of the cement we can immediately picture the huge quantity of energy and pollution that can be avoided.
Another peculiarity of the earth is that it doesn't produce waste.
If we build an earth wall and after a while we decide to destroy it to build it once again differently, then we could use the very same earth, we could take the chucks on the ground left after the destruction of the wall, wet them, knead them and use them again to build a new wall. No waste occurred.
When an earth house needs to be demolished, the earth composing the house itself can be reused to build another house. Another option is to return the earth to the land, in this case we wouldn’t even have to hesitate to reuse this earth for cultivation. So a house that before was providing security now it is a land providing food.
The important thing is that we made a closed loop which allows those who are to come after us to perpetuate this circle.
There is no other building material that behaves like that. The conventional building materials, when a house is destroyed, usually end up in landfill, which is our “nice gift” for the next generations and for the Earth itself.
Talking about sustainability referred to buildings we must mention the energy needed to heat and cool an earth house. It is true that the energy performance of a house depends on the materials it’s built of but it also depends on how the house was designed and how it is used. The earth has a great thermal inertia, which combined with the thickness of the wall and an appropriate solar design can create a very well performing house.
The thermal inertia and the thickness of the wall guaranties a fairly constant temperature inside the house regardless the outside fluctuations, this is an important element for comfort and for energy savings aspects.
Although it is sure that an earth house will be nice and cool during the summer, it is not always true that it can stay very warm in the winter, this will depend on many factors. Nevertheless who has lived in an earth house usually evaluates it as cool during the summer and comfortable during the winter.
The earth is not a toxic material.
Common sense suggests building a house with non-toxic materials.Unfortunately some of the materials produced by the building industry are toxic and they shouldn’t be breathed in.
The earth used as a building material does not contribute to the pollution of the planet.
Since the water, the air and the soil are directly connected with our food, then there is a straight correlation between our health and how we choose to build a house.
The hygroscopic property of the earth makes this material suitable for the humidity regulation inside of a house. The earth sucks humidity from the air when the air is too humid, and it gives it back when the air in the house is too dry.
It has been scientifically proved that earth walls tend to keep the indoor relative humidity between 50% and 70%. These values are considered optimal for human health.