Engineer praises natural building materials in lecture

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Houses that are built with clay and mud cool the climate significantly, engineer Bruce King said.

By Mardio Lattimore

Complete deforestation of the Earth’s ozone layer and ecosystem may be more likely to happen sooner than people think, yet people have all the tools to stop this, structural engineer Bruce King said Oct 11 in McCreless Hall.

He spoke to an audience of about 30 in an event sponsored by the American institute of Architects, Sinkin Eco Centro, and the Earth and Construction Initiative.

King is the author of three books called “Buildings of Earth and Straw,” “Making Better Concrete” and “Design of Straw Bale Buildings.”

He is not only the co-founder, but the director of the Ecological Building Network and has also taught ecological building practices in international settings.

King showed slides as he discussed earth-sourced architecture.

He said that the plastic and concrete being used for construction hurts the ecosystem, but materials such as sand, clay, and wood inhibit global warming.

He said that the rapid number of buildings being constructed in the U.S. to accommodate the rising population is equivalent to New York City being built every 35 days.

To help introduce natural earth buildings in the city, King said it would benefit society greatly because construction workers would have “a very simple supply change.”

The projects construction workers build this year will have a three out of four chance of hurting the environment by putting too much carbon in the air, he said.

This damages the ozone layer when concrete is heated up before being spread, King said.

An evolving replacement for concrete and metal is timber and straw, although he acknowledged using too much could be damaging to the forest.

“Will this transition wreck the forest? It could if we don’t do it right,” King said.

Europeans are using forest-stewardship-certified-wood beams with straw being packed into the interior to make large buildings.

He said this has been worth the investment because it is easier to build with and more durable against environmental weathering.

King said plastic and refrigerates damage the air when people burn them or leave them lying around in stockpiles because they are made up of a material more harmful than carbon dioxide.

Clay is as hard as concrete but requires less heat than concrete when being molded, which means it puts less carbon in the air and is weather resistant, he said.

“Clay binds things together, and that’s what makes it work,” king said.

For more information, visit his website at or call Eco Centro at 210-486-0417


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