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Earth Houses

Build Better - With Dirt!

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Taos Pueblo

The historic Taos Pueblo is made with adobe.

Jackie Craven Homes in Loreto Bay, Mexico

Homes in Loreto Bay, Mexico are made with compressed earth blocks.

Jackie Craven Making compressed earth blocks at the Villages of Loreto Bay, Mexico

An earthen mixture is compressed into building blocks at Loreto Bay, Mexico.

Photo © Jackie Craven

Tomorrow's homes may be made of glass and steel -- or they may resemble the shelters built by our prehistoric ancestors. Architects and engineers are taking a new look at ancient building techniques.

Imagine a magical building material. It's cheap, perhaps even free. It's plentiful everywhere, worldwide. It's strong enough to hold up under extreme weather conditions. It's inexpensive to heat and cool. And it's so easy to use that workers can learn the necessary skills in a few hours.

This miraculous substance isn't only cheap as dirt, it is dirt, and it's winning new respect from architects, engineers, and designers. One look at the Great Wall of China will tell you how durable earthen construction can be. And, concerns for the environment and energy conservation make ordinary dirt look downright appealing.

What does an earth house look like? Perhaps it will resemble the 400-year-old Taos Pueblo. Or, tomorrow's earth homes may take on surprising new forms.

Types of Earth Construction

An earth house can be made in a variety of ways:

Or, the house may be made with concrete but sheltered underground .

No one can argue with the environmental benefits of using mud and straw. But the ecological building movement does have critics. In an interview with The Independent, Patrick Hannay, from the Welsh School of Architecture, attacked the straw bale structures at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales. "There would appear to be little aesthetic leadership here," Hannay said.

But, you be the judge. Does "responsible architecture" have to be unsightly? Can a cob, straw bale or earth sheltered home be attractive and comfortable? Would you like to live in one?

Take a poll >>

Tour a village of earth-walled homes in Loreto Bay, Mexico >>

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