Typically, a house is built out of sticks of wood (called studs) nailed together in a line (called framing) to create the floors and walls. Wood framing has been in use for over 175 years, and it remains the most popular method of building homes. Nearly 90 percent of the homes built in the United States last year used wood framing. Odds are, your home is made of wood.
Unfortunately, using all this wood is wasteful and inefficient. Wood-framed buildings require the addition of insulation, waterproofing, and special structural panels. The 13,000 board feet of lumber needed to build the average house also consumes trees and adds to global warming.
In this section, I will explore several natural construction methods as alternatives to using wood. Consisting mostly of mud, straw, or scrap wood, these methods offer numerous advantages over wood framing. From saving money, to speeding up construction time, to increasing insulation value, natural building methods may be the best choice for your green dream home.
Using natural building methods is not an all-or-nothing approach. You can use a combination of methods and materials. Build the exterior walls out of straw bale, the interior walls out of framing (see Wood Framing), and the garage out of something like structural insulated panels (see our guide on manufactured building methods).
WARNING: Check with your local building department before beginning construction using any of the methods covered in this chapter. The building codes favor wood, steel, and concrete. Any time you want to use something else, you may need special approval from the building department.