Tomorrow's eco-friendly miracle construction material may also be yesterday's, and it can be as cheap as dirt because it's made of dirt! In a word, it's ADOBE!This miracle, green, construction material is as ideal for the earth homes of tomorrow as it has been for hundreds of years at Taos Pueblo in northern New Mexico...in fact, it's durability can be demonstrated by one look at the Great Wall of China, as Jackie Craven points out in her guide to Earth Houses!
Here in New Mexico, adobe homes have been common for hundreds of years. Adobe is not just an architectural style, it's a construction material. Adobe bricks are made from compacted earth, clay and straw, which is then dried in the sun to form bricks 12-18" or more in thickness. This adobe bricks are then laid up to form the walls of the homes. Well maintained, adobe can be one of the most lasting methods of construction, and one of the most environmentally friendly. It's always been said that adobe is "cooler in summer, warmer in winter," and the old saying is true. Adobe walls retain heat in winter, and stay cooler in summer, making adobe homes very efficient to heat and cool. The Southwest Solaradobe School's statistics iindicate that adobe combines with passive solar construction can cut winter heating costs by more than 60% in cold winter areas, and the high-mass earth walls similarly cut air-conditioning costs in summer.
And adobe is not just useful in the desert southwest. Adobe is also used in wet, tropical climates in Mexico and Honduras, and the alternative rammed earth construction can be even easier in wet climates. Both adobe and rammed earth construction are easy on the environment (none of the outgassing associated with plywood, fiberboard, etc.), and are naturally fire-proof and termite resistant.
It's true that many of New Mexico's custom adobe homes are very expensive. The work of making the adobe bricks is very time- and labor-intensive, as is the construction process itself. However, many New Mexicans also live in custom adobe homes that they have built themselves at a very low cost and lots of "labor of love." The actual construction materials are basically dirt, some straw and water, and lots of personal time and energy!
So consider "going green" with adobe construction! You can view lots of adobe homes on our website any time for ideas!