May 21, 2014

Affordable Sustainable Housing

For thousands of years humans built and lived in affordable, sustainable and beautiful homes. In some places of the world such homes continue to be built and enjoyed. But not in "developed" or "advanced" cultures. We like our homes unaffordable, unsustainable, and much larger than necessary.

It is pretty hard to improve on native peoples' ecologically sensitive home designs. I thought about this one year ago when severe flooding in Alberta wiped out hundreds of houses in dubious locations. If asked, local native people might have warned against building in such exposed locations.

I thought it ironic that the area's original people in a similar situation, say 200 years ago, would have simply pulled up the stakes on their low-tech tipis and moved out of harms way, then return after the silt settled. Wonderfully simple.

As it was, the flood caused 6 billion dollars of property damage and washed 10,000 people out of their homes, some never to return. This is progress?

I don't advocate that we all live in tipis, although I think in many ways it might be better if we did. But we should think more about the kinds of houses we are building, and where we are building them.

Maybe we can learn about more appropriate forms of housing and building sites from the original people that have been building solid shelters away from harm for the past several thousand years.

This tipi is very hard to move out of harms way when the creek overflows its banks.


  1. I've always wanted to live in a yurt or tipi + plumbing. Unfortunately, most zoning laws would not allow for this kind of lifestyle experimentation.

    1. Gam Kau,

      It is so true that bylaws often restrict our ability to freely explore alternative housing options. Even in rural areas laws can restrict what you can do on your own land.

      My brother in law lived in a tipi for a few years, even through several feet of snow and cold weather. He loved it.

      It would be fun to have the land and laws to be able to experiment with traditional building methods that use locally available materials, and are simple enough to be constructed by the average person.


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