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Live Sustainably and Chemical-Free With ‘Dirt’ Cheap Eco-Houses

Friday, March 21, 2008 by: Dorien Herremans
Tags: eco-housing, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) Who among us goes to work in order to be able to pay off the mortgage on his house? And who among us is aware of the damage to nature and our health caused by conventional construction? We don't seem to do much about the many toxic construction materials, or do we? The California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture (Cal-Earth) seems to have found a solution to both problems at once.

Toxic Living Environment

Ecological housing has gained much popularity over the last years, and with good cause. The first problem we have to face if we want to live in a healthy home is what type of building materials to use. At the moment, there are actually tons of toxic substances in your home! They are all quietly escaping as a gaseous form, while you breathe them in. A famous example is formaldehyde, a preservative commonly used in construction materials, that can cause breathing problems and also is believed to cause cancer.

Eco-Domes Out of Dirt

If we want a sustainable building, the first thing to do is eliminate any toxins. Nader Khalili, architect and founder of Cal-Earth has developed a way of building a house using the earth itself as material. His Eco-Domes (or Moon-Cocoons) are built by using a special sandbag (local earth) and barbed wire technology, called Superadobe. The result is a very stable (and pretty) house that has passed California's strict earthquake requirements. They are designed with the sun, shade and wind in mind for passive cooling and heating. No chemicals or toxins are used, just local lime-stabilized earth in bags. Any 3-5 person team can build an eco-dome in a week! Click here to see an image of an Eco-Dome (http://lh6.google.com/dorien.herremans/R8PPz...)

Bigger Houses – The Earth One

Eco-domes are great for building retreats or small houses and the individual units could even be repeated and joined together to form larger homes. But there is also a bigger model, which is the 3 bedroom vaulted house, also called Earth One. The Earth One is shaped out of arches and looks really nice. This 'dirt cheap' ~ 2000 sq. ft. house can be built with $3000 worth of bags and barbed wire! Click here to see an image of the vaulted house

Emergency Shelters

The simplicity of the Superadobe technique offers a possibility to quickly build emergency shelters, wherever on the globe they are needed. The main building material is the earth, which is available everywhere. This was recognized in 2001, when The United Nations Emergency Response Division sent a team to the Cal-Earth Institute to follow one of their workshops.
Click here to see an image of the shelters

DIY Building

Sustainable building includes respect for nature. What greater respect could you show than to build your eco-house with your own hands? Cal-Earth is a non-profit organization that organizes workshops that teach you how to build your own house out of Superadobe.

Abobe and Further...

A house is not built when the walls are up. There are more things to consider, such as power supply. There are two ways of being ecological with electricity. You can either cut your usage (think ecoleds!), but let's face it, that's not enough... Or you can provide your own green electricity! The costs of getting a connection to 'the grid' can be higher than you think. Maybe you want to install a solar photovoltaic system? Do you have a water stream nearby? Install a small hydro-installation. Is your area prone to heavy winds? Get some wind-turbines. Do you have a lot of animals? Consider a bio-gas engine. This list goes on, only to end at the possibilities Nicola Tesla tried to offer us. Why not talk with your neighbours about sharing a system? If you don't have to go to work for your house-mortgage, you certainly don't want to go for your power bill!

About the author

Dorien wrote the ebook: Drupal 6: Ultimate community site guide. Now everyone can set up an online community (http://book.drupalfun.com). She is currently doing a PhD at the University of Antwerp.

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