In my previous article, I discussed Japan’s scrap-and-build approach to construction and looked at how modern architects are combatting this trend with sustainable alternatives. Japan, shaped by a history of destruction and renewal, is a land of impermanence. In the UK, on the other hand, we like things that are built to last. Even our prefab homes, hastily constructed to confront the post-war housing shortage, have proved to be durable. But can we go even further, through sustainable means, to produce large-scale, long-lasting homes?
Natural resources alone provide many options. Stone houses make for a quintessentially British abode which, when combined with the German “Passivhaus” heat absorption method, can be highly energy efficient too. Contrary to the Three Little Pigs narrative, wood and straw represent viable alternatives. The versatility and strength of wood make it an ideal building material. Indeed, bamboo houses, enjoying a renaissance in many parts of Asia, can withstand hurricanes and earthquakes better than their concrete counterparts. And perhaps the eco-friendliest option of all: earth houses. For what could be eco-friendlier than the Earth itself?
Some developers, taking a different tack, are recycling material to create sustainable homes. The “Waste House”, whose insulation consists of old VHS tapes and DVD cases, was envisioned and constructed by University of Brighton students, demonstrating how we can make use of landfill waste, rather than generate it. Other innovations, such as wood pallet homes and shipping crate homes, are merely the tip of the sustainable iceberg.
We are in dire need of new homes in the UK, and although it would be naïve to presume that sustainable housing can fill this void completely, we must prioritise the approach. After all, it makes sense that our quest to live sustainably starts from our home.