About 10 years ago, I took a trip to England to see my former boss, Ian Stalker. One of my goals was to see the construction methods, materials, and architecture used in Yorkshire. Ian took me to see cathedrals and houses, from Ripon to York, and north to Hadrian’s wall. Over a week of touring the country, I hadn’t seen any vinyl siding, nor any asphalt shingles. After mentioning it to Ian, he simply stated that those materials simply don’t last long enough.
All of the construction that I saw, both new and old, was built with traditional, long lasting materials. The houses were masonry, and the roofs slate or clay tiles. It was quite a contrast with how homes are built in the U.S. I know that there is a lower supply of wood, but it seems to me to be a fortunate end result. I’ll avoid the debate of CO2 here, and stay out of those weeds!
Recently we had high winds here in Virginia causing a large section of vinyl siding to blow off of a new house in nearby Berryville. What is under the vinyl was unprotected osb. Osb are 4 x 8 panels of compressed wood chips, cheaper than plywood. This incident reminded me of my trip. The building methods do not compare.
I’ll start with a premise: I think it is better for society, both economically and psychologically, if we care about the spaces that we inhabit. I mean this in both design, and quality, the feeling of solidity. Well designed spaces feel good, and I think that the quality of materials adds to that.
My frustration is that building in the US, supported by the building associations, care about profit first and foremost. The rest is separate. The codes don’t take into effect longevity at all, just the immediate reasonable safety margin.
The planning for the Chinese house project has been quite interesting. Besides being introduced to the idea of using stabilized rammed earth, I have been reading about clay tile roofing, and straw bale construction. Adobe structures, and building with mud bricks in the middle east are all ancient and incredibly long lasting. I want to live in a rammed earth house…
Quality building methods have been with us for thousands of years, but ‘modern’ factory methods have largely supplanted those methods in the U.S. Is that a good thing?