Cheaper Than Dirt

Dirt, silt, soil, mud, gravel, clay, loam, and mud are located in mass amounts all over the globe. These readily available materials were used as building materials in many of the first primary dwellings built by man. Mud bricks were used to create truly innovative structure such as the stepped pyramids, or ziggurats of Mesopotamia. These monumental structures have been called the first skyscrapers. According to an estimated one third of the earths population still live in and use buildings constructed of earth. In western architecture earthen building materials still may bring some preconceptions to mind that cause use as designers to dismiss these materials. The concepts of fragility, inefficiency, or being ephemeral all may come to the mind of a western designer.  Some of these are entirely unfounded such as earthen building being ephemeral; some of the oldest still standing structures are constructed of earthen materials. Today when designers are trying to limit their impact on the environment and provide shelter to an ever-increasing population earthen material may provide some answers. Award winning projects like the Experimental House by the Japanese firm LOCO Architects use earth-packing techniques to create functional structures that use on site materials with minimal amounts of refinement or processing. This eliminates massive amounts of energy required in the transportation and acquisition of materials like stone. When the house reaches the end of its life span it can be demolished and returned to the ground. This drastically could eliminate the amount of waste sent to landfills. Earthen building materials and methods need to be reexamined. Our preconceptions of them being something from the premodern may need to be thrown away, in light of the many advantages they provide.

Experimental House by LOCO Architects


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