BUILDING GREEN: A how-to for the Green Builder

by , 09/27/06

Green Building by Clarke Snell & Tim Callahan

Here at Inhabitat, we frequently focus on the latest green designs or sustainable products, but on occasion we come across wonderful publications that absolutely deserve to be brought to our readers’ attention. Building Green by Clarke Snell & Tim Callahan provides green-minded home builders with 615 full color pages of meticulous writing, sequential how-to photos, and basic building logic. This book chronicles the process of building a small picturesque getaway cabin constructed of cob, cordwood, strawbale, and alternative wood framing for the individual walls – and then they cap it with a green roof!!

This book is for anyone considering truly green residential construction. What makes the book so successful is that the two authors come at the project from two different perspectives; one from the alternative (can we say hippie?) point of view, and the other from a more rational, slightly skeptical, seasoned contractor. And for less that $20 this tome of green how-to is a sweet deal!

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  1. Ulrike October 2, 2006 at 4:54 pm

    I just finished reading this book. Or, more accurately, I just finished reading the first half. The book was due back at the library, and I was unable to renew it, because another patron had requested it. I will definitely be checking it out again as soon as it becomes available.

    One thing that sets this book apart from other green building books that I’ve read is that the aurthors emphasize the “cons” to the various methods. It’s not unusual to come away from a book about adobe, for example, believing that a person with zero building experience can build an adobe home in 4 months for $100 that will last centuries and keep it’s northern Minnesotan owners warm in the dead of winter and dry in the monsoons of spring.

    Snell & Callahan are… cautious. They recommend going overboard with the framework supports. They suggest that someone who has never taken hammer to nail might not want to cut their teeth on building a home, at least not without some expert help. They admit that the cost of green homes, even hand-built ones where the owner does much of the work, can cost as much as their more mainstream counterparts (and can cost even more if you need to hire out a significant portion of the building). They say flat out that what works in the desert of Arizona may not be the best option for the cool, wet Pacific Northwest–and vise versa–and they recommend that potential home builders do significant research on what techniques have been historically used in their area (if there aren’t any adobe homes in Iowa, there’s probably a reason for that).

    All of Snell & Callahan’s criticisms could leave readers feeling like green building options are more trouble than they’re worth. I don’t think that’s their intent, and I hope that readers won’t be so disheartened that they give up their dream of building a beautiful, natural, healthy home. Rather, readers should come away with a more realistic outlook on things like budget, building materials, workload and the like, and to avoid problems before they cost you time and money.

  2. kim October 2, 2006 at 1:03 pm

    i teach 4-h and we have been donated a small tract of land!!!! with an old home on it we cannot afford all the green books se need if you could see fit to send us one the kids thank you
    you can send to the leader
    kim case
    box 1252
    outlook sask
    s0l 2n0
    we will study and apply your green ideas thank you

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