House from Kalsbach

Open-air museum Kommern, Germany.

-- Architecture Today
Historical buildings were often by their nature ecological and healthy and may serve as examples for today's architecture.

The environmental awareness has not as yet taken much effect apart from the pioneers who are prepared to live up to the consequences. Mr. Mertens from Eschweiler, Germany, who is a producer of dough mixers, applied his product for the mixing of a light straw-adobe insulating material. He completed the house successfully with a double ‘fachwerk’ and floor with adobe and floor, wall heating, but commented that it’s labor intensive and takes long to dry. So before this can be a successful product, solutions have to be found to overcome this problem.
Mertens House
The old “fachwerkhaus” inspired Mertens’ House.

Fachwerk Barn reused as house extension.

A pioneer in the Aachen region is the architect/artist Andreas Dilthey. His house in Vetschau is exemplary for the development of adobe building. Ceilings of floors and roof of the land house were insolated with new developed adobe techniques with insulation of thick reed-mats. Behind this house a barn is erected made up of an old "Fachwerk" house, which will be build with walls of a light straw-clay mixture. This shows the re-use of a wood frame, Fachwerk. Old skeletons where made to be easily taken apart like prefab elements.
David Easton and his TERRA Group in Napa, California, realized a showcase home with 24 inch earth/concrete walls, that provide enough thermal mass to stabilize indoor air temperatures in both summer and winter with little need for artificial heating or cooling. The earth mixture is stabilized with an addition of 10% cement. This PISE, Pneumatically Impacted Stabilized Earth is a product as seen in the house that substantiates the monolithic walls, floors, and kitchen and washroom countertops. The house was declared by PG&E a Showcase Home and a fine example of energy efficient building technology.
David Easton with his team.
Recycled Door

Recycled door.

The recycling of building materials may enhance a feeling of authenticity and is an application of ecological ideas. Dan Plummer, who built himself a reputation on a nationwide coverage in "This Old House" television series, has a talent in finding the 'right' materials like this door. Such elements seem to breathe their own life and are rich in texture. He also re-used floor boards, ceiling rafters, Victorian trimmings etc. in the American Chiropractic Center in San Francisco, that was written up in the San Francisco Examiner.
Straw bale building does not have the disadvantage of being labor intensive like the use of light straw-adobe, nor the problem of drying slowly. With the adobe of the scratch coat deeply penetrated in the straw a similar result is achieved of a good insulation with fireproof finish. The application of layers of plaster however demands a skilled craftsman such as the artist and straw-bale-building pioneer Rob Kaptein. He realized various straw bale projects successfully including the plastering with both adobe and lime for which he makes his own mix. (For more, see Straw bale site)
Lime plaster
Scratch coat of lime plaster on exterior walls.

Preparing adobe plaster on site.

This picture (left) shows the very beginning of earth plastering in recent years in the Netherlands. Carl Giskes is mixing on site an adobe plaster with sand, clay and chopped straw for the project ‘Art Meets Science and Spirituality’. From this a whole industry developed of ready mixes of base coats and finish layers in all sorts of earth colors. Also many plasterers turned to applying these ecological and healthy materials on walls and ceilings either ready-mixes or of their own make. In fact anybody can improve their home or office spaces both for looks and interior conditioning. Giskes was the first to introduce earth-building applications to the Netherlands but his company ‘Leembouw Nederland’ delivers now all over Europe and many others followed his example, reacting to the demand for a natural interior. 
With a growing awareness for health and ecology a new trend is slowly developing in building, which can only mature if there is a demand for its qualities. The general awareness however still has to be awakened for the existence of health inducing ways to build of which we named a view. Maybe this process will be speeded up once awareness sets in about how unhealthy the ‘modern’ interior space is conditioned. But little knowledge is as yet available of how it affects our health. Prof Annelies van Bronswijk spells it out how building codes for insulation cause an increase of allergies. This results in a negative effect for energy conservation making health subordinate to environmental regulations.
Interior with adobe plaster, adobe brick wall and wall, floor heating.
In the end architecture is a language, which needs to be redefined. But it must be stimulating for all the senses of the human being creating a harmony of body and mind. The essence of good architecture then is to improve the health condition for the individual and the community within the environment and to increase the quality of life.

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