10 Reasons Why People Don’t Build With Natural Materials

Have you ever puzzled over why so many people choose to buy homes at outrageous prices that require 20-30 year mortgages even though they are often poorly built, made with materials that offgas hazardous substances and readily burn in house fires? In addition, these conventional houses are usually energy inefficient, require expensive ongoing maintenance, cause untold environmental damage and are largely devoid of redeeming value. Why doesn’t everyone switch to simpler, lower cost natural building methods such as earthbag, strawbale, stone, pole building and adobe?

1. Housing rules and regulations generate massive profits for the building, banking and insurance industries, and ensure government taxation and control. These entities benefit handsomely and work night and day to prop up the current system at your expense.
2. People lack awareness and understanding of viable alternatives, and so they think it is more practical to buy a typical contractor built house.
3. Complex modern building methods and materials discourage homeowner involvement. Traditionally, most people throughout history built their homes up until the last century or so.
4. It seems easier to buy a home outright than to spend months building it yourself, although homeowners are then burdened for decades trying to pay off the mortgage (which can equal several times the original cost).
5. People push aside their doubts and concerns about going deeply in debt for the bulk of their lives in order to pursue the illusory American dream (or something comparable in other countries).
6. People want to use their home as an investment vehicle to profit from, even though millions are now upside down on their mortgages with no financial relief in sight.
7. It’s somehow comforting to know that your house looks almost exactly like hundreds of thousands of other houses.
8. I saw it on TV so it must be true, right?
9. It’s important to keep up with the Joneses… isn’t it?
10. Inability to think clearly and make rational decisions that are for their best interest.
11. Housing prices will always go up, right? (I threw in a bonus for the fun of it.)

18 thoughts on “10 Reasons Why People Don’t Build With Natural Materials”

  1. I love all things natural, my life is a living testament, i agree with the author and support the idea for everyone to use natural materials, but most building clients just plain do not wish to have these types of materials used because of society.

    I hope this article catches on and huge increases of use of these materials becomes a reality!

  2. I think reasons 2 and 3 are the most common for those who give any thought to this sort of thing; many people just don’t. There are a lot of ways to be.

    Over a few weekends I built a foundation for my house with some friends. Over Labor Day weekend my friends and family turned out and we put up a small straw bale house (20×30 exterior with a ‘bedwomb’ extension of 8×9 for a total livable square footage of 488sf). This weekend two friends and I put the plywood on the roof and the waterproof membrane for under the corrugated metal. When I went looking for land I specifically looked for a place without building codes. I respect building codes and my little house is very safe and follows all kinds of best practices but I am willing to take responsibility for it all; I’ll be the one living in it after all. What has amazed me the most about the process is how many people who have worked on it have thanked ME, which seems completely upside down. Turns out they’re grateful to be reminded (for the older set) or to learn for the first time (had many wonderful young people involved) that they can take control of their own housing needs and that people routinely did that for a long time until we were convinced there was a better way. Many are also convinced that it is all just too complicated and it simply isn’t! Of course we can’t all go out and build in a county without building codes and I understand that it isn’t the right choice for everyone. I feel a sense of gratitude to everyone who has slogged through the permitting process to get a form of natural building approved as it paves the way for those who come behind them. We just need to be insistent when dealing with our local governments that we have a right to figure some things out for ourselves! Such a dichotomy exists today; on the one hand there is a lot of talk about government wanting to shift responsibility from itself to the citizens and on the other they stand squarely in the way when we try to exercise that responsibility. Strange times indeed.

    If you’re interested, here’s the photo album of the wall raising:

  3. What a great list, very thought provoking. I personally believe the shift from agrarian to industrial was the beginning of the end, inevitable and necessary though it was. Without it we would probably still have a life expectancy of 46 years “in 1900”, no NFL, fast food…. fast anything as a matter of fact.

    However, dealing with our current reality guys like Owen and RR are actually doing and not just talking. My eyes have been opened to choices and changes thanks to them. Keep up the great work!

  4. An interesting information was provided to me when I joined the wholesale division of a “famous” mortgage lender. I was provided with an interesting write-up based on facts and solid information. What truly shocked me was that 65% of families will break apart during a construction phase of their homes.

    Majority of US population are children. They do NOT know or wish to know, but base their “opinions” on their emotional states, rather than solid comprehension of facts and Truth. “Educated fools,” as Marley has pointed out in his lyrics.

    There is an old wisdom – “you can pull a donkey to the river, but you cannot make that donkey drink the water…”

    Earth homes and shelters are not for everyone. They are for “adults.” :)

  5. Your book covers vertical walls, or so the heading suggests. I’m interested in a Dome, and I’ve got Donald and Kaki’s book already. How would your book contribute to this?

    • Their book is about eight years old and doesn’t cover all the countless developments since then. (Hyperadobe, better tools, wall flattening, etc.) Every aspect of earthbag building has been improved upon. Much of that info is covered in this blog, but the book distills all the most important ideas into one compact (85 page) book with 185 photos and drawings. It’s a how-to builders guide, not a long winded treatise on the history, why EB is a good idea, etc. There’s virtually no fluff. It’s almost all step-by-step details.

  6. I think most people dont think they can build them self( I didn’t think I could before I read more books about this)
    And many people think it would not work. The roof will fall in or the moist will create mold. The truth is that with a book from the library and some good friends to ask things can go very well.

  7. Oh, and move number 10 up to number 2…. Most people are dumb as rocks and very proud of it. At least back here in the Old Country… ;-)

  8. Ah, the list I formed in my head 15 years ago…. ;-)

    It can really be boiled down to one point:

    1) The innate human desire to remain an animal, and cause as much suffering and destruction as possible.

    I refuse to admit that I am from this planet… It disgusts me. I’d be living in an earthbag house right now if it weren’t for that collection of hate-mongering degeneracy known as Government.


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