Saturday, September 30, 2006

Building your own sand castle


I read this article in Mother Earth News awhile back (and I can't find the exact article in their online archives but they have a lot of great green building articles) about sustainable, cheap housing made from sandbags. This notion stuck with me and I've been thinking about it a lot lately. Some friends of ours have a beautiful piece of property outside the city where we live, and they've been saving for a few years to build a permanent house on the land. Well, they finally concluded that the price of materials was just going to be too high, and so they've decided to put work into renovating their double-wide and putting in a swimming pool. It was an okay compromise for them, but it makes me frustrated that these people -- good, hardworking people -- cannot afford to build a permanent structure for themselves and their two children.
Then, yesterday I was IM'ing with a friend in NYC who is set to retire, move into the country with her partner, and build a home. I half-jokingly suggested that they build out of sandbags, and she said, "I'm not living in sand!" and that was that. But I got to thinking about it later and so here is what I've come up with on the subject and let you, the reader, decide:

Here is a great first article in Architecture Week about the pheonom, and talks about Nader Khalili, the architect who is "weaning the world off of two-by-fours, steel, and concrete."

Sean Sand's Papercrete House is an entirely different way of looking at recycled building materials. We think of recycling old houses and maybe using a good looking window or door, or old wood floors that are still in good condition, but Sean Sand is using an ancient building technique by combining cement and sand with things like newspapers and magazines: "'Glossy' magazines work fine -- in fact, they are preferred, because the "slick" magazine paper contains clay, which is beneficial to the mix." Yeah, man!

Last but not least is the quintessential website to go to get an overall impression of the craft of Green Homebuilding and all the many mutations and projects done by others, books written about it, and pictures galore (and where the one for this entry comes from).

It's thrilling, and if I were a more goal-oriented person I would buy up what cheap real estate is left in this part of the world and build a whole eco-community! Could you imagine a subdivision made entirely of adobe sandbag houses, each with their own little front yard vegetable garden? A patchouli-fragranced paradise, I say!
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