In the world of food, people are beginning to realize that a return to old ways has many benefits for the environment as well as personal health: whole grains, fresh produce, locally sourced organics. The same principle is becoming increasingly applied to building, according to the Austin American-Statesman, as architects and developers rediscover old materials and techniques.
Straw bale and rammed earth are ancient materials used in new modern ways. They are cheap, readily available and gentle on the Earth to source. They impart a high level of energy efficiency and are naturally mold resistant, a fact that has piqued the interest of a number of homeowners.
Over the past few years, some people have struggled against bureaucracy to gain permits for using such traditional materials, or have not been able to obtain insurance. However, that's changing, as more and more communities embrace the eco-friendly homes. As scientists have shown that straw bale construction is actually highly resistant to fires (due to its tight packing), more and more underwriters are willing to take on the policies.
Building with straw, earth, adobe, recycled materials and other techniques makes a great deal of sense in many contexts. People were using such natural ways for millennia, and now is the opportunity to combine age-old wisdom with modern technology, pairing the best of both worlds.
The 20th Century saw a trend in which people rejected the old in favor of the new and shiny. But under that shiny veneer was often a flimsy, toxic underworld, as we continue to learn every day, from lead-tainted walls and toys to collapse-prone bridges and asbestos-stuffed interiors. With good technology, we can all have homes that look contemporary and beautiful on the outside (and in fact, are indistinguishable from those of our neighbors), while being more grounded to the earth and sound in the long term.
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