The Pro’s and Con’s of Green Building

I have been somewhat obsessed with green building and for the past few years have read everything I can find on cob, cordwood, and strawbale. More specifically Rob Roy’s books on Cordwood, Strawbale building books by Bill and Athena Steen of the inspiring Canelo Project and of course all of Lloyd Kahn’s Shelter Publication books… but the two books that have really inspired me of late is my all time favorite, The Hand Sculpted House and a recently published book, Little House on a Small Planet.

After reading the Hand Sculpted House I was fairly certain I needed to build a cob house. After building two cob cold frames I am ready to embark on a bigger project – a small (under 150 feet) cob garden shed. This being said, as the authors note, cob is not ideal for all situations and I am not certain that cob would withstand our high altitude winter’s very well. Take a look at these two projects: Go here and here to find two families who did not have the best experience with cob due to climate. One family now chooses to winter elsewhere as the home is not habitable during the winter and the other is having similar issues along with mold.

Which brings me to the second book,  Little House on a Small Planet. This book takes a close look at the movement (not certain if that is the correct word) of people who are choosing a different life style away from the mc-mansions, big mortgage, and large utility bills and towards more sustainable options, with lower living expenses thus allowing for more happiness.

The book has tons of examples of real family’s choosing non-traditional living arrangements.. multigenerational housing, shared living situations, extremely small houses and most admirable – coming up with a plan to pay the mortgage fast, or better yet save the money ahead of time.

Food for thought – according to the author, Shay Solomon, there are currently 10.4 million houses in good repair that are unoccupied within the United States. This equates to 40 vacant houses for every homeless person receiving services. Makes me rethink green building…perhaps the goal should not be to build more homes but to make what we currently have work?

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