Talk about a green home! This website documents some ancient turf home reconstructions that date from the Norse Era in Canada and Iceland. The photos are terribly cool and I cannot resist from sharing. But there is also a lesson to be learned here, beyond just how cool a house covered in grass looks.
These ancient houses feature walls built from turf cut straight from the ground. Literally, these homes are built from the ground up, from super local materials, and the structures are made by hand. Looking at traditional homes such as these turf longhouses will enlighten readers about what it is truly like to “build green”.
Before industrialization, it was out of necessity and practicality that houses were built from natural and local materials. Homes were built from what was available and could be worked by hand. There were no lumberyards with fleets of trucks shipping out materials across continents. There were no cranes to lift heavy objects or heavy machinery to dig giant holes. There was only human ingenuity and muscle.
You will note that the Norse used as little lumber as possible in their buildings. That’s because timber was a limited, and thus highly valuable resource, so it paid to be frugal with wood. What was available was turf, and that’s what became walls with some thoughtful consideration. Even the design and arrangement of these buildings suit the occupants’ daily lives.
What would homes in America look like if we did not have access to lumber cut halfway across the country? What if we didn’t have access to synthetic building materials and could only use what the land provided us? Our homes would, by default, be much “greener”, no doubt. It’s interesting to consider, as many builders now do. These “natural” and “green” builders are making such an attempt to build with more local and sustainable materials. And it’s likely many of these builders look to traditional homes for inspiration. For good reason!