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Mortgages are Outliving Homes! Are you Future-Ready?

Advocating for the diversification of buildings, biomes, and businesses to establish sustainable legacies.

✔ How long conventionally built homes actually last

✔ Proven longevity of traditional building techniques

✔ Why it's important to bring outside air into your home

✔ How to turn the cost per square foot dilemma into a new equation

Happy Fall and welcome back to Building Resilience!


For those of you who are just now joining us, nice to meet you! I am so grateful that you’re interested in the earthen-building movement. I’m here to be your guide as you dive into the world of resilient building!



Recently, I’ve been laser-focused on the future.

What's that one thing that can be done today that will produce the most sustainable results in 10, 20, 50 years to come? When it comes to designing more resilient homes, that one thing is to grow THIS earthen-building community.


There's nothing worse than having a vision and not having the right people to help fulfill it. In the building industry, more often than not, we stick to tried and true… or maybe not so-true.

What if we broadened our vision, to not only the future but the past? What do ancient technologies have to teach us? Is it necessary to totally reinvent the wheel, or is it more efficient to “copy the homework” of those who came before us?


So, thank you for joining and being open to learn. Strap in for the many possibilities that await us in the earthen architecture movement.


Monthly Resilience Trivia




Stats on Conventional Building


Conventional building is the most hassle-free building method

at first.

I once built a home with a conventional system (you know, those ‘Home Depot go-tos’) because it was convenient. Can you blame me? Building a house is stressful! Home Depot (and the like) presents itself as the one-stop shop with the fastest remedies to your home issues.

Doing things the right way may not always be easy, but trust me, doing things the fast way will always catch up to you in one way or another...

Only a couple years later was the ‘natural builder’ in me horrified to see the results of my rash Home Depot decisions– roof rust, exposed Tvek threads blowing away in the wind, and moisture in the subfloor.

I will never build like that again.

On average, a conventionally built home in North America will last approximately 25-50 years without repair. That's about the length of a typical mortgage! By the time you’ve paid for the damn thing, you’ve got to start rebuilding it again!

Here are some not-so-fun renovations needed on your standard house and the typical time frames they need replacing:



On average, that's a major renovation every 8-10 years.


Although many of these materials may outlast the current owner, the resale value of these homes depreciate very quickly.

When looking for alternatives, note that the most **resilient materials (**according to InterNACHI) include:

  • Natural stone, tile or wood countertops

  • Wooden floors

  • Masonry (e.g., brick fireplace or pavers)

  • Copper-plated wiring

  • Fiberglass, steel or wood exterior windows and doors

A Timeless Tale


I’m not much of a history-wiz, but I love looking back at tradition to see what has stood the test of time. Almost allergic to the latest fad or trend, I typically go all-in for the ‘timeless’.

Not far from where I live in Colorado is an archaeological preserve called Mesa Verde. Mesa Verde was once a vibrant community of several thousand ancestral pueblo people, and while they may now be gone, their 600 cliff dwellings still stand there today.



The smaller buildings were mostly made of sandstone, mortar and wooden beams, the larger buildings made with adobe. Mortar was made with local soil, water, and ash.

The cliff dwellings were built into the alcoves and rock overhangs within canyon walls. This simple design protected them from the summer heat and brought in the winter sun to heat up the masonry as thermal mass.

Not only did this passive solar design create habitable and comfortable spaces, but the structure itself was merged with the bedrock around it creating a solid foundation.

What makes these cliff dwellings so timeless?


  • Local materials

  • Passive Solar Design

  • Merging the Foundation with solid bedrock

  • Continuous and uniform wall systems

  • These cliff dwellings were inhabited for around 100 years, and still stand over 800 years later.

Mesa Verde is proof that a building has the potential to last 1,000 years.



 

Earthen Architecture Today


With technological advances moving at an exponential rate, you would think our conventional buildings would last longer than they did in the past. Sadly, in most cases, they don’t. However, there are a few sprouting technologies that give us hope. For example, Sirewall, an insulated rammed earth wall system, is built to last 1,000 years. That’s 7 generations. Can you imagine being able to hand down a building with:

  • Minimal repair requirements

  • Non-mechanical temperature regulation

  • Inherent mold protection and non-toxic indoor air quality

  • Resilience to fire, flood, seismic, and EMF conditions

The conditions of this world in the future are unknown. Designing buildings with all the scenarios in mind makes a home truly resilient.

The timeless in you is aware of life's timelessness. And knows that yesterday is but today's memory and tomorrow is today's dream.”

- Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

Putting A Price Tag On Longevity


Look, I get it. ‘Going green’ can often come with a hefty price tag.

The bureaucratic process along with high labor costs can make going green NOT an option for many people. Often, energy efficiency and natural building comes with a higher premium - sometimes even 2x or 3x conventional building.

In terms of accessibility, saying it’s a stretch would be an understatement.

How do we navigate these big financial decisions and start discussing the value of a 1,000 year old building? Instead of cost per square foot, let's try this: Cost per lifetime year.

Say you want to build a 2,000 square foot house. You have the option to build a conventional house for $200 per square foot that will last 40 years (…or until your roof caves in) or a resilient one for $600 per square foot that will last 1,000 years. Even though your initial cost is 3x more, the cost per lifetime year ends up being about 10x LESS than a conventional building (not factoring in renovations here):



This checks out. It’s actually a bad financial decision to NOT make this upfront investment if you are looking to build generational wealth.

“In stressful situations, during this massive remodel, Christina was always of a good mindset and totally solution-oriented. People like her are the glue holding projects together.


— Taylor Evenson.

Interested in building a resilient property?

 

THE BOOK LIST

The Solar House


I love this book because it offers a comprehensive guide on designing and living in a solar-powered home, making eco-friendly living accessible. With real-world examples and practical insights, it demystifies solar technology integration for residential use. It's an essential resource for anyone interested in embracing sustainable living through solar energy.

 




Want to design a long-lasting earthen building but don’t know where to start? Check out the NatureAlly directory. I’m working on getting more companies listed, so if you don’t see any in your area yet - stay tuned!

 

The world we live in is changing lightning-fast. The choices we make greatly shape our future generations. Building sustainably isn’t just about being eco-friendly, it’s about building a better quality of life today for the generations to come. It sparks creativity and brings economic and social opportunities to the community at large. I hope the next time you’re faced with the decision to build resiliently or not, you choose to craft a legacy of sustainability that’ll stand strong for ages to come.

P.S. The longest-lasting building material is STONE

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JOURNAL
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 CHRISTINA

I love all things natural. I love building places we can call home and in turn be our most authentic selves. 
 

Although I specialize in architecture and interior design, I appreciate all forms of design where form and function are in balance.

My hope is to inspire others to find eco-friendly options valuable and beautiful. 

This is where eco meets elegance... 

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