The New Home Economics

Book review: Building Green

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Building Green: A complete how-to guide to alternative building methods
Authors: Clarke Snell and Tim Callahan

building_green_cover_largeI checked this beautiful book out of the library because Adam and I are talking about building a shed/playhouse next spring and I wanted to do a little green building research.

The whole book is basically a complete and well-photographed documentation of a little cottage that the authors built using several different alternative building methods: cob, cordwood, straw bale, and earth plaster with a living plant roof.  The entire process is covered in exhaustive detail, from initial dreams to site plans, laying a foundation, building each wall, the roof, etc.

As interesting as it was, and as beautiful as the photography was, this book really does not apply to my situation at all.  I’m not bloody likely to be building a house anytime soon, as much as I like to fantasize about it.  I need to get a “how to green up your 50-year-old, completely improperly situated (from a passive solar perspective), and possibly poorly-sited house (our house sits on a former wetland, which we didn’t know until after we bought it) without breaking the bank” book.  Does this book exist?

One of the cooler things about Building Green is that there is a ton of related content on the authors’ website.  Since the book came out, Snell and Callahan have started a business, The Nau Haus: they’ve created their own natural building system.  There are some very cool home plan ideas on their website.

If you are building a house or cabin anytime soon, I would definitely give this a read and see whether you want to incorporate some of the ideas found here.  Even if the idea of using cob or straw bales sounds horrifying to you, there are other things you can consider, such as siting your house to maximize its passive solar potential and thereby reducing your long-term heating and cooling costs.

As for our little playhouse/shed, well, we’ll see what we can come up with.

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