Alternative construction represents some of the oldest means of building devised by humanity. Adobe, rammed earth building, cob building--these methods utilize local soil, straw, clay, and other natural materials to create structures of immense strength. Some may understandably frown at the possibility of building a home out of what they perceive as dirt. But given the modern advancements made in these forms of construction--the addition of cement as a stabilizer being just one example--alternative construction methods represent the best chance many homeowners have at creating a structure with true longevity.
The utilization of local building materials means that homeowners in remote locations do not have to worry about the high cost of transporting conventional building materials and specialized laborers to the job site. Straw bale building, stone building, rammed earth building, and cob building can also all be done in stages, keeping pace with both homeowner knowledge and budget. The bevy of specialized workers needed to complete a conventional home is in many cases unnecessary for alternative construction methods, allowing homeowners with an interest in completing their own home to build the projects themselves as they learn.
Since an earth-based mixture is used in so many alternative construction methods either as a kind of mortar or as the exterior walls of the home, homeowners must obtain an accurate evaluation of the local soil. Homeowners may be able to consult nearby municipalities for a soil report. Local farmers may also be an excellent source of soil-related information. Each earth-based alternative construction method requires a slightly different portion of clay in the soil, but this can be off-set somewhat by the addition of modern materials, like cement.
Straw bale building, cob, adobe, and other earth-based building methods require more than just soil with the right amount of clay, however. Homeowners must construct a strong foundational structure, typically of concrete or stone. This process involves careful planning and evaluation of local geography. And as always, alternative construction must be completed in compliance with all local building codes and regulations.