We spend a lot of time here explaining how to build strong, safe houses. Let’s look at conventional code-approved building materials and see how they compare to earthbag building.
Because building codes were written by big industries to favor themselves, including the timber industry, the end result is farcical, although deadly serious when you consider the number of house fires every year — 399,200 in the US alone, according to the US Fire Administration. (Not all were wood structures, but wood frame building is most common in the US.) The grim statistics include over 2,960 Americans civilian deaths and more than 14,265 fire injuries, with property loss estimated at $6.7 billion annually. According to WikiAnswers, there are somewhere around 117 million house fires worldwide a year.
So let’s imagine how to build a house that will burn like crazy. You could start with small dimension, highly flammable pine or fir boards, spaced apart to create chimneys for flames and heat to rise. Check. Fill cavities with hazardous insulation that offgass VOC fumes and toxic smoke. Check. Cover interior of walls with paper coated sheetrock for ‘fire protection’ and cover the exterior with wood fiber siding that’s held together with toxic glue. Check. And if you really want this sucker to burn then let’s finish the house with lots of oil-derived products — synthetic paint, vinyl linoleum, synthetic carpet, plastic countertops and asphalt shingles — and you have a ticking time bomb that’s just waiting for a spark. Why do people buy houses like this?
Now, let’s codify these building practices, convince people they’re safe (ignoring historical experiences to the contrary) and create reams of regulations that make it difficult to build safe houses that can last hundreds of years. What type of house would you rather live in?