How to Building an ecological house

In recent years, environmental issues, ecology, and sustainable development have taken on an unavoidable role in the building industry. This one knows today its most important mutation since the sixties, with the standardized construction of mass and the arrival of modern comfort in homes.

After the first oil crisis in 1973 and the awareness of our energy dependence, the beginnings of a reorientation of construction towards ecology remained marginal because of the rapid recourse to nuclear autonomy.

The building sector is now being singled out because, along with the transport sector, it is the one that emits the most greenhouse gases in France: it alone generates 46% of energy consumption and 25% of gas emissions. Energy consumption has increased by 30% in 30 years, 75% of which is due to heating. It is also the sector where it is easiest to act, thanks to technological progress that allows for immediate effects.

The reality of climate change, due to the exceptional increase in greenhouse gas emissions produced by human activity, is now undeniable, as is the imminent exhaustion of fossil fuels.
During the 20th century, the average temperature has already risen by 0.74°C and the sea level by 17 cm, among other things because of the spectacular melting of the ice. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) estimates that the average temperature of the Earth will rise between 1.8 and 6°C by the end of the century (summary of IPCC reports at www.greenfacts.org).

The speed of this change does not give ecosystems time to adapt, and puts many species at risk. Known reserves of fossil fuels will be exhausted in about 50 years, assuming a 2% annual growth in demand. The major economic crisis announced in 2008, along with increasingly frequent natural disasters (cyclones storms, droughts, floods, etc.), will lead to a rise in inequalities, tensions, and social and geopolitical conflicts.

Several terms for several approaches

There are many terms to describe the environmental approach to building a house: “ecological”, “sustainable”, “HQE”, etc. This diversity is representative of the plurality of approaches which, if they have the same goal (respect for the environment), do not all correspond to the same priorities, and propose different solutions. Here are a few definitions to help us understand the different names and the meaning of this approach.

Sustainable architecture

It was at the Earth Summit in 1992 that the concept of “sustainable development” was established. It defines the principles of a development that reconciles economic, social (access to the same resources for all), and environmental (preservation of resources).

Applied to the field of construction, it is about :

Building to last with the available resources, without harming future generations.
future generations. Our ecological footprint must be as light as possible because the environment
does not have the capacity to respond in an unlimited way to our current and future needs.

Take into account the notion of global cost. Materials used in construction must be chosen not only for their performance and cost, but also according to the availability of the raw materials needed to manufacture them, the cost of pollution linked to their transformation and transportation, their longevity, and their capacity to be recycled.

On a larger scale, integrating the entire life cycle of a building, from the impact of the manufacture of materials to their treatment at the end of their life, as well as its operating cost by striving to reduce its energy needs, without neglecting its urban aspect (transportation supply, water resource management, waste treatment, etc.). But the concept of sustainable development is sometimes criticized: those for whom the notion of development is not compatible with sustainable management of resources think that the very idea of growth must be questioned.

Eco-construction

A combination of the words “ecology” and “construction”, the notion of eco-construction was born in the 1960s to define buildings that minimize their needs, as well as their impact on the site and on the environment. These buildings are integrated as respectfully as possible in their environment and use natural and local resources (materials, companies, etc.).

They use materials that are abundantly and easily available, renewable, and non-polluting: stone, earth, wood, straw, hemp, etc. Eco-construction is inspired by vernacular architecture and its principles of common sense, sustainability, and economy of means, improved by technical contributions that allow taking advantage of renewable energies: stone, earth, wood, straw, hemp, etc.
of means, improved by technical contributions allowing to take advantage of renewable energies: passive solar, solar electricity, wind, geothermal, Canadian well, etc.

Which wood to use when building your own property?

Having coffee on a nice table, relaxing in a comfortable armchair, sleeping peacefully in a good bed… It is possible, even deep in the woods, in the heart of large forests, under majestic trees, and far from cities and villages. Obviously, the table is made of hazelnut poles still green, the tablecloth of foliage, the armchair of pieces of wood, and the bed of string… These are the “natural” furniture, made in a few minutes according to simple, but solid, convenient, and welcome techniques, which avoid you settling on the ground, prick yourself on brambles or nettles while sitting, or sleeping on wet ground. It’s not about finding the comfort of a cozy living room, but rather to fully enjoy, with the minimum of inconvenience, a true immersion in nature.

The tools are minimal: a good knife, a saw, a hatchet, possibly a hammer. And, of course, rope, cord or string. And the techniques are simple. While some of the furniture made in bushcraft and crumpling courses require relatively complex assemblies (and thus fairly specialized tools, such as the auger or the plane), the ones we prefer – and which we propose here – do not present any major difficulty, even for those who have no experience of woodworking. They are essentially made of poles of chestnut, hazelnut, or any other species, cut and tied with cord. Exceptionally, we reinforce them with notches in the middle of the wood and some nails.

On the other hand, these very simple tables, benches, chairs, and armchairs are strong enough to be used as garden furniture. They can be given a less wild character by using debarked poles or even round bars found in large DIY stores, and by applying a protective product to the wood, which will allow it to withstand the weather. With their originality and freshness, they bring to the garden their rustic, country, and romantic character, and their “natural” beauty.

Alone, with family or friends, try your hand at making them. In addition to the satisfaction of creating something useful, furniture that will make your hikes and escapades in the woods more enjoyable, you will also find a lot of charm and fun, without practically spending a penny.

Which wood to use?

Poles are the trunks of young trees, a few centimeters in diameter, which are abundant in areas that have been deforested and then reforested (forests). They can also be found in unharvested forests, where they are free growing. Moreover, trees cut down in vines also give poles. It is not a question of cutting down living trees or branches to make temporary furniture. And it is not necessary, because there is enough deadwood standing, in this case, poles and saplings that have been choked by their neighbors, but are still standing: they are very strong and you can use them for many purposes.

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