So many Ashlanders are hip to the benefits of investing in local, organic food and grasp the relationship between our health and good ecological citizenship. Thinking this way about our shelters is less common but every bit as important for our own well-being and in our quest for a sustainable future. The story of food and the story of shelter run parallel. Both went through a radical break with tradition in the petro-chemical era and in the process our health suffered. By comparing conventional and natural food side by side with conventional and natural building, I hope to further clarify why biological building benefits both the occupant and the environment.
For many years there has been a popular and successful movement in North America characterized by a return to natural or biological food. Many have made the informed decision to shun “de-natured” processed foods because of the costs; social, environmental and to our health. We have witnessed a burgeoning of local farmers markets and community supported agriculture throughout North America. When Michael Pollen, bestselling author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food” was asked about the relationship between health and ecology with regards to food he stated, “I discovered that in most cases the best ethical and environmental choices happen to be the best choices for our health.”
Remarkably, more than 40 years earlier, the founders of Building Biology made a parallel observation about the built environment stating: “There is almost always a direct correlation between the biological compatibility of a given (building) material and its ecological performance.” In other words, environments that are deeply nurturing to human health, by their very nature excel in ecological performance.
Just as we have discovered that the soil sterilization and chemical fertilizers of factory farming are a very poor substitute for rich living organic soils, Building Biology notes the failure of industrialized building technology to create vital environments with the synthetic materials and systems that are prevalent in conventional construction today.
The natural environment is a delicate balance of chemical, electrical and biological energies that has sustained life through the millennia. Humans, along with all living things, thrive in natural environments with fresh air, temperature variation, humidity range, a complexity of colors and shapes and the subtle electrical pulse of the planet. The role of our buildings is to shelter us from climatic extremes without sacrificing these life-nurturing qualities. We can sense when an environment feels good to us but it is rare to find indoor environments where we feel the vitality we experience in nature. We can re-create these conditions indoors through the use of natural building systems. There are beneficial repercussions to our health, to ecology and in social responsibility when we replace factory produced, denatured product assemblies with locally crafted natural homes. I look forward to the day when the housing market catches up to the farmer’s market.