Building with the Earth

A couple weeks ago, I started thinking about assembling a campus for Emerging Leader Labs, Agile Learning Centers, MetaCurrency and various other cool projects. I was looking at a site with a lot of facilities (127 bedrooms (sleeps 400), conference center commercial kitchen with 200 person dining room, etc.) and thinking about the projects we’d want to have around to retrofit these buildings to be energy efficient and maintainable.

I started thinking about what it would take to just build a campus that way to start with and it seemed like it would take a ridiculous long time with ridiculous expense… But the notion kind of haunted me.

I started looking into Compressed Earth Blocks which can typically be made from dirt right on site, are stronger than the specs for concrete block, have open source plans for a block-maker, etc. It started to look like for the cost of a few thousand dollars, we could make the structure of buildings from merely what is already on site and free. When structured correctly, walls can be super-insulated and built without mortar or cement.

That set me to thinking about the roof framing and the possibilities of a portable glulam machine which might make beams from scrap wood & brush cleared from the site as well.

Suddenly, the notion of building a campus started seeming more feasible.

I started being able to envision building as a process which could primarily involve rearanging the materials already present on site rather than harvesting, manufacturing, transporting and buying materials for the building process. This seems pretty exciting and just feels right. ‘

I could see this as an ongoing venture activity on the campus, not just for building our own buildings but providing these kind of green building services to the larger community as a commercial venture.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand there is still significant cost involved in the infrastructure (plumbing & electrical) and finish work. But I think I can see some ways for this to be a bit easier than normal.

Yes.. we have to work within building codes…. but I can’t help but think there has to be a way to exceed most standards without the same brain damage from the normal commercial materials. For example, I discovered resin & sand based shingles made from recycled plastic that look great and started imagining a campus which internally recycles much of its waste rather than shipping it off to centers who may or may not actually recycle everything.

This whole campus notion is still very much in an imagining stage, not even quite to planning, but I can feel it calling me closer.

Anybody else want to scheme with me?