Here’s a low cost, 100% all natural wall building method. Homes built with this traditional Guatemalan building method can last up to 500 years and endure earthquakes.
“The whole project was a great success and we’re looking forward to making more such walls in the school and in other public spaces with future ATC volunteer teams. We hope to document the process so that others can copy the technique.
With the help of a pair of longer-term volunteers, this coming week we’ll be putting a small tin roof to keep the rain off, a lime and prickly-pear plaster to defend the bottom of the wall from raindrop splash-damage, and a clay plaster for the rest of it. I shall add photos as it happens.
In this area (western highlands of Guatemala), bajareque buildings are built by first assembling a frame of hardwood posts. A thin bamboo (Mexican weeping bamboo) is then strapped horizontally onto both sides of the uprights using wet agave fibre ties (aka maguey). Pine needles are draped from the bamboo before filling the cavity with rocks and a mix of mud and pine needles. The mud mix is then applied as an earthen plaster to seal and preserve the organic materials within.
I’ve yet to visit them but I have heard of 500-year-old bajareque buildings in Guatemala that are still standing, although most don’t last that long. Before the 1960’s, most rural dwellings in Guatemala were bajareque, then adobe took over until that too was superseded by reinforced concrete and cinder block. While block and adobe appear more substantial, and are generally more desirable to most rural Guatemalans, bajareque has superior resistance to earthquakes and it’s also considerably cheaper. Ironically, bajareque has seen a revival among wealthier central americans for building their weekend homes, which are often finished to an exceptionally beautiful degree.”
Source: Return to the Forest Journal
Note the emphasis I’ve added in the last paragraph. These statements sum up some key points about natural building: 1) Structures built of natural materials often last hundreds of years or longer (sometimes longer than modern materials), 2) Rich people who can afford any building materials they want often utilize natural materials for their inherent strength, beauty and character. See Preferred Building Materials for the Rich