Even in this era of industrialized and commodified building systems, it has been estimated that over 50% of the earth’s population still build with and reside in houses made of earth.
Earth: our home of homes. For thousands of generations it has also been our building material of choice: raw, local, and reflective of people, place, and a logical human scale. Extravagance was saved for structures and buildings with profound cultural significance: large timbers for a sacred house in a scrub brush desert; stones the size of school buses dragged 12 miles and up a mountain to build a temple; miles and miles of monolithic earthen walls to keep out invaders. Extreme structures like these required a concentration of human population and centralized power to make them happen. The vast majority of human dwellings have seamlessly ebbed and flowed from and back into the landscape over the centuries. In the last 200 years we have seen a radical transformation of human habitation, in location, building size, and material choices. Even in this era of industrialized and commodified building systems, it has been estimated that over 50% of the earth’s population still build with and reside in houses made of earth. (Ronald Real, Earth Architecture, 2009). From the adobe pueblos of the North American Southwest to the 13-story cob towers of Yemen, people around the world inhabit earthen structures — and they’ve been doing so for thousands of years.