Green Home Building and Sustainable Architecture

Sustainable architecture is an exciting and important field, with many people reviving traditional methods of building and others creating innovations to established practices. Kelly Hart, webmaster of the popular website, posts text and photos featuring what he discovers from around the world.

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Name: Kelly Hart
Location: Crestone, Colorado, United States

Kelly Hart has been involved with green building concepts for much of his life. He has also worked in various fields of communication media, including still photography, cinematography, animation, video production and now website development. Kelly has lived in an earthbag/papercrete home that he built (but is now mostly living in Mexico) and consults about sustainable building design.

April 12, 2009

Toxic Drywall and the Ills of Modern Building

I just read this article about the toxic effects of new houses that used drywall material shipped from China to the US in the last few years. Many people are getting quite sick and can no longer live in these contaminated homes. Nobody quite understands exactly what the cause is, except that the suspect drywall seems to emit toxic sulfuric fumes, especially under hot and humid conditions. These fumes are so corrosive that they can turn copper pipes black. It is estimated that at least 100,000 homes are likely affected by this problem, many of them built during the height of the housing boom when domestic drywall material was harder to find.

Wow. What a devastating example of the imbalance that exists in our modern times. Contractors, wanting to provide more wealth for themselves and those buyers who expected to soon turn around and make a profit on the houses they bought, turned to Chinese producers of building products. To meet the demand the Chinese carelessly threw together raw materials that appeared to be safe enough to use and shipped them across the ocean to the eager market. Everybody was making why not?

Compare this to a more wholesome, sustainable scenario, where only local, natural materials are used for building, and speculation is not driving the economy. This never would have happened.

Thousands of lives are being ruined by this situation, through loss of health and economic loss, paying for houses that cannot be safely lived in. What a double whammy! The author of the article assumed that these houses would eventually have to be torn down to deal with the problem; I doubt that this is true since it is quite possible to pull out all of the drywall and start over with that phase of the construction, which is actually one of the last stages of building. Still, the impact is enormous.

If anything is to be learned from this, it should be that we need to take a serious look at how we go about using resources and making money.


Anonymous Cambridge Homes said...

What a mess this is! We haven't heard about it much in my area and I wonder if it's because we don't have as humid a climate or if it's because this product wasn't used in the Northeast. You're absolutely right - it certainly seems as though pulling out the drywall will solve the problem but that won't be a small job.

It's really too bad that almost everything we buy is manufactured elsewhere - one problem after another keeps cropping up with cheap imports of all sorts - from pet food, to toys, to building materials.


11:05 PM  
Anonymous New Toronto Condos said...

New green house building techniques have a lot of potential, but it seems this potential will stay untapped since there is a glut of cheaply built suburban homes on the market now. I think the greenest residences are high density condos. A lot of progress has been made in greening new condos, for example 2 Gladstone Condos and The Giraffe Condominiums in Toronto. In particular, The Giraffe Condominiums will boast a rooftop water retrieval system – pretty cool!

9:21 PM  

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