Dirt Houses are Good for the Planet

Inefficiently constructed housing is a problem for the planet and people. Poor insulation, intensive manufacturing process, and costs all have long term impacts on energy usage and people’s budgets. There is a solution to this that has been used the world over: building homes using dirt. Sod, adobe, and other materials have been used to make homes for millennia and perhaps it’s time we return to these natural methods. Iceland is one such country where the discussion of returning housing to its roots is alive and well.

Still, when discussing the contemporary benefits of turf homes to Sigurdardottir, she is largely positive about it. “Turf houses with their grassy green roofs are perfectly environmentally-friendly buildings and sustainable,” she says. “The material is taken from wetland areas where the grass root is thick and strong. It lasts for decades in dry weather and rots eventually like wood, just a little faster. [It] is then used as a filling in new walls or put into holes to smooth the meadow or spread it over it like fertilizer. Dry turf provides good insulation against cold weather.”

And there’s a growing coterie of people asking questions about the contemporary applications of turf homes. Last year, an exhibition in Seltjarnarnes called Earth Homing, Reinventing Turf Homes sought to explore the contemporary applications of turf houses.

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Sod Off!

sod wheelSome enterprising grad students at Dalhousie in Halifax, Nova Scotia, have taken the park on the road. The architecture students were exploring the concept of public and green space and came up with this groovy way to always walk on the grass!

“”We’re looking at the idea of green space in the city,” said grad student Kevin James. “Even in the Public Gardens, you’re not allowed to walk on the grass.”

Halifax Downtown Coun. Dawn Sloane says they’re right, except for the Public Gardens statement. In fact, playing on the grass is allowed in the children’s area, but the problem is nobody knows about it.

“I think our biggest issue right now is that not only is our green space being utilized for some of the wrong reasons, but they’re under- utilized by the communities, and we do need more,” she said.”

The concept isn’t perfect because when the sod is over your head dirt falls on you. If the concept really dries up then maybe they’ll turn it into a hot tub.

Anti-Uranium Bacteria

Nuclear power inherently wants to kill us with its radiation, well now we can use the power of nature to fight the evils of harnessing radioactive power! Researchers have found a bacteria that eats away at uranium, which means that places like old uranium mines and weapons enrichment facilities will have less long-term damage on the environment.

“”Toxic uranium is often found in groundwater at places where uranium was either mined or enriched to make weapons,” said Craig Criddle, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford. “This uranium-contaminated water can migrate into surface waters, where it becomes a threat to organisms and water supplies. Excavation of contaminated soil or pumping and treating the water are prohibitively expensive and lead to additional disposal issues. An alternative is to stimulate naturally occurring subsurface microorganisms that can convert the dissolved uranium into a solid form that is not susceptible to transport by water.”

The ethanol stimulated growth of subterranean microbial populations that converted the uranium into an immobile form. After treatment, high levels of uranium remained on the soil, but the groundwater contained almost no uranium. Analysis of the soil-bound uranium confirmed that it was largely converted into the immobile form.”

Now, if we can only convince people to stop using nukes.

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