Green Homes


It seems that every other day a product, a place of business, or a service provider of some sort becomes greener in an effort to lead an eco-friendlier life. People are not stopping at just trying to use greener methods of acquiring energy at home, it is becoming more popular to use recycled material to construct sustainable buildings. Usually we think of a traditional-looking house or building, made of concrete and bricks, but has it always been that way?

Natural Buildings

Buildings in ancient times were made of simpler material; people used what was readily available to them from Mother Earth. Sand, clay, straw and water were combined to form a mixture that would then be used for building homes. This natural technique in buildings was sustainable as well as durable, and homes were harmonious with nature. This method of building fell out of favor due to industrialization and the modernization of construction; however, they are still in use in poor areas where natural resources are aplenty.

Not only is using natural materials cost effective and eco-friendly, they are also healthier for us. Natural materials are porous in nature; thus, they allow natural air circulation in the house, unlike other man-made materials, which create an unhealthy environment. Such houses exist here in Egypt, one example being the mud brick houses in Siwa built using a mixture of salt, water mixture and mud, which when shaped are left to dry in the Sun.

As a matter of fact, the largest earthen building in the world is the Great Mosque of Djenné in Mali, Africa. It was completed in 1907, and it is made from Sun‑baked mud bricks coated with mud plaster to give a smooth finishing to the walls. The mosque is built on a platform measuring about 75x75m that is raised by 3m above the level of the marketplace. The people of Djenné take pride in their mosque; an annual festival is held to help maintain it, where festivities include food, music and competitions in repairing damage sustained by the mosque due to erosion.

Green Buildings

From the moment of its inception, green construction should be environmentally friendly and responsible. Not only should the finished construction function in green mode, but during the process of its construction everything should be energy and resource efficient.

The main concept is that green buildings should be designed so as to reduce the overall impact of the construction itself on the environment as well as human health. This is done by adhering to an efficient use of energy, water and all resources; making sure the health of the builder and occupant will not be affected in any negative way; and, most importantly, reducing waste and pollution to the smallest percentage possible.

The masonry used in green buildings can be quite innovative and unusual. Everything used in construction has an impact on the environment; that is why it is a great idea to reuse materials instead of throwing them away and adding to the pollution. Some people have started using material that is left-over trash from other construction sites; old doors, windows and wood can find new homes instead of being transported to the trash landfill. Not only that, the bricks used can also contain a high percentage of recycled materials, including glass.

Bottled Buildings

Bricks are the building blocks usually used in construction, but does it necessarily have to be so? Monks in Thailand do not think so, and they proved it by building a temple using 1.5 million glass bottles. The entire structure is made of different sized bottles, creating a beautiful spiritual haven. The Wat Pa Maha Chedio Kaew temple sits in Thailand’s Sisaket province, and is a standing example of the great feats that can be achieved through recycling.

But, is it only glass bottles that can be used in construction? Of course not! New projects are emerging where plastic bottles are also used. In the Philippines, Pepsi spear-headed a school building project; the method was as follows: collect used plastic bottles, fill them with adobe (a natural material made from a mixture of sand, clay, water and straw) and stack them up on top of each other to form walls within a steal frame.

This idea is brilliant on many levels, instead of leaving the bottles at large, they are being reused, the school costs less to be built and the design of the construction is eco-friendly. This idea has also travelled to Africa, and is a great way to create sturdy structures in a cost effective way.

Who knows what ideas people will come up with in order to provide eco-friendly home solutions, but with the innovative and ingenious ways that are already around, the future is definitely looking greener.


*The article is published in PSC Newsletter, Spring 2012 issue.

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