When it comes to the architecture of homes, businesses, and everyday structures many think of these buildings to be constructed out of wood, iron, and steel. Though these are very common materials, one half of the world's population lives or works in a structure built from the earth. Be it soil, sand, straw, mud, or another form, the elements of the earth around us are also some of the most commonly used building materials in the world.
One method of home architecture that is starting to become increasingly more popular is the technique of underground homes. Underground homes not only cut down on building cost and land usage, but also can lower utility bills, saving money in the long run. An underground home is built utilizing the ground as an element of shelter for structure, for example an exterior wall or roof.
By using elements of the earth an insulating layer is formed that protects the home from harsh weather conditions as well as prevents excess heat and humidity from entering the home. Underground homes are very organic, fire proof, and eco-friendly. Though underground homes are ecofriendly they do require access to high terrain whereas structures constructed of other earth materials such as straw bale do not; making straw bale homes another eco-friendly technique of home architecture.
Straw bale homes utilize straw bales as insulation for the structural build of the home. These walls are then finished off with several coats of plaster to ensure durability. The combination of straw and plaster have a high R-value or insulation resistance and become very soundproof.
Soundproofing is just one advantage to most types of earth built homes. They are also very low maintenance, fireproof, long lasting and durable, and very storm resistant. When compared to structures composed of iron, steel, and other man made building materials, structures built from elements of the earth have a high number of benefits. They are very cheap in labor and building costs as the materials are readily available and a majority of the labor does not require a contractor.
A structure built from the earth is also very energy efficient, staying warm in the winter and cool in the summer by the earth elements serving as insulation. Due to this factor pipes are less likely to freeze in severe weather. Because these structures are literally built from the earth's natural elements more space is allowed for yard usage and there is less pollution from the home, as well as less long term atmospheric carbon radiation.
Photo of Botanical Conservatory in Fort Wayne by Tony Frantz