by Damaris Matis and Simon Hodges

The way we build unites an attitude of what we want the world to be with what are needs are today. The world population is expected to reach 8 to 10 billion by 2025, at the same time resources are depleting. In the coming decades societies will have to learn how to flourish while decreasing their carbon footprint and utilising alternative resources.

Past patterns of consumption give few reasons for hope, but in the building industry at least there are significant reasons for hope. Construction methods are becoming both more efficient and employing an outstanding range of methods that soften the ecological blow.

Earthships, designed by Michael Reynolds, are the ultimate in green homes. They can be built in any part of the world, in any climate and still provide electricity, potable water, contained sewage treatment and sustainable food production. Using heat from the earth and sun, energy from the wind and capacity to grow food inside and outside, these biotecture homes offer more than simply sustainable solutions but typify a whole new world view, of ecologically integrated living.

More industrially, but perhaps no less impressive is the Chinese-based Broad Sustainable Building Corp, using new sustainable building trends, was able to build a 30-story hotel in just 15 days. The building claims to be five times more energy efficient than traditional structures, provides 20x purer air quality and can withstand a 9.0 magnitude earthquake. The construction was done 90 percent in a factory and 10 percent on-site, producing only 1.0 percent construction waste.

Meanwhile ways to find innovative building materials are expanding. Hemporium is the brain child of Tony Budden and Duncan Parker who have successfully designed and built a whole 187m2 house from hemp. The plant was only be used for making fibre board and insulation but can be mixed with lime to make “a strong, light and durable cement.” Their so-called “hempcrete” also offers more applications beyond the humble home.

According to a McGraw Hill study done in 2011 green homes are expected to comprise 29%-38% of the residential homes construction in the U.S. market by 2016. This is a jump from 2% in 2005 and 17% in 2011. Builders are faced with a demand for more energy efficient designs and products from consumers. A California builder and architect is teaching everyd ay people how to build their own green home. Ideabox and Ikea of Portland are building pre-fabricated energy efficient homes for $85,000 delivered to you in 6-8 weeks.

It seems that the move to sustainable architecture is both widespread and substantial. It may be that economic incentives underpin the change: the decreased cost in materials and energy consumption being chief among them. However, initiatives such as Hemporium and Earthships give hope that a deeper shift in consciousness is taking hold. As pioneers keep pushing boundaries in how we use materials, the hope is that the mainstream will take notice. Since buildings demonstrate and also encourage the current state of the social mind, the proliferation and take up of these more outlandish projects cannot come fast enough.