What is Green Building? | Paja Construction | Straw Bales since 1991
Homes designed in harmony with nature

Cadmon’s Thoughts on Green Building

Green building has become a catch phrase, a buzzword, many people are interested in it, many builders use it as a means of capturing an interested audience. I have been building “green” for many years and have my own take on the word.

Let me first say what I think green building is not:

1) Green building is not an overwhelming use of conventional building methods (questionable insulation, high ceilings, designed sustainability in mind, etc) It is not simply putting an energy efficient boiler in a house that is otherwise poorly constructed.

2) It is not using a few so called “green” building methods such as solar power while ignoring a sustainable building ethos in a project.

3) It is not catering to the common notion that “larger is beautiful”, or “larger is necessary”

What Green building is:

1) Careful design work that will match an owner’s budget as well as their needs and dreams for a space that is built in harmony with the local environment.

2)Full utilization of all spaces, hopefully allowing for a smaller building footprint. This could include things like: lofts, basements, partial basements, and or porches.

3) Use of truly sustainable, recyclable materials such as: straw bale, adobe, cob, rammed earth. Use of locally sourced building materials such as vigas and or natural materials that are available locally or recycled.

  • A good example of this is the vigas we used in our Off Grid Straw Bale Home project in Manzano. They were harvested from a nearby forest fire that felled many trees last summer, and we managed to find great timber that otherwise would have rotted away

Vigas and Windows South Face of Straw Bale House

4) Potential use of blown fiberglass insulation that contains a high portion of recycled materials, sheep’s wool, if properly installed is also a green insulation option.

5) Avoidance of lumber such as 2×12′s that require old-growth forest harvesting (trees that are over 50 years old). etc.

6) Exploring the use of systems such as passive solar, or in the case of areas that need more cooling than heating, minimizing passive solar gain. Utilizing natural ventilation, exterior areas such as porches, gazebos, greenhouses that could extend the ambiance of a house and provide cool or warm living spaces for homeowners.

7) Use of clear-story windows or sola tubes rather than skylights to achieve natural lighting. The single best thing you can do to insulate a house is to use sufficient ceiling insulation. Putting a skylight in the ceiling makes this attempt very inefficient.

8) Use of Trombe walls, as shown in the photo below, to enhance the natural capacity of a house to heat or cool itself.

Adobe Trombe Wall

9) Judicious placement of room-to-room ventilation. For example: south-facing rooms which can transpire heat to potentially colder northern sections of the house, or conversely, north facing windows that could naturally cool a house.

10) Use of a modified geo-thermal system in cases where basements are appropriate to provide a temperature homeostasis, utilizing the innate temperature equilibrium of the earth.

11)  Greywater systems, rainwater collection, solar water heating, as shown outside this straw bale greenhouse as part of Mary Lindsay’s straw bale home.

Straw Bale Greenhouse


 Green building is not adding one green item to a traditional building, but rather an entire structure and building method using energy-saving and renewable materials, designed with sustainability and efficiency in mind.


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