Could You Build A House Using Only Local Materials? Architects Weigh In

Could You Build A House Using Only Local Materials? Architects Weigh In

Sticking to a 100-mile diet is hard enough, but what happens when you apply the locavore ideal to construction? The Architecture Foundation of British Columbia recently launched an international competition to design a 1,200-square-foot home in Vancouver using materials sourced from within 100 miles of the site. We asked three American architects how the same limitation would shape a home built in their backyards.

Portland, Maine

“Boat building and textiles are two industries we have here. I’d take the top half of a lobster boat and use it as a roof and use tensile fabrics to cover the rest of the house. You’d come up short for insulation within 100 miles, but the old-fashioned way was to stuff the walls with seaweed, used sails, or even old shoes or corncobs.”
-Christopher Campbell, Christopher Campbell Architecture

Boulder, Colorado

“When I lived in Santa Fe, making a local home meant digging a hole in the ground and pouring adobe into forms of pinon pine and going fishing while the homes cured. In Boulder, we have different options. Beetle-kill pine has beautiful blue streaking that would give exteriors a striking look. We also have local manufacturers of a new solar material that you can bend and twist to follow a curving roofline.”
-George Watt, George Watt Architecture

Los Angeles

“You can’t assume a local home will look like the local landscape; we have plenty of palm trees, but most palm flooring actually comes from China. But the biggest challenge would be getting a good high-design fixture list for things like plumbing and lighting. If you really want something beautiful, you have to import. Very little would be available off-the-shelf, so you’d have to custom-build everything. What fun!”
-Whitney Sander, Sander Architects

Illustrations by Leif Parsons