Building Sturdy, Eco-friendly Homes Lindsey Morrison

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Building Sturdy, Eco-friendly Homes

Lindsey Morrison

NR 1234 First-Year Experience in Natural Resources and Environment

Tammy Parece

November 3, 2014


Many homes located on the Gulf Coast of America are in danger of being destroyed by hurricanes, or they have already been destroyed by hurricanes. States that are typically hit by hurricanes in the gulf are Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. These states typically get the hardest impact of hurricanes because they are located on the Gulf of Mexico Coast. When a hurricane hits anywhere in that area, there will be destruction. Many homes are not built out of materials strong enough to withstand these strong storms. When the homes are destroyed, the pollution the environment around them. After some storms, the post-storm pollution was so catastrophic that it took many months and even years to clean up the mess and rebuild the demolished homes.

When new homes are built in the Gulf Coast region, they should be constructed with materials that are efficient and strong. The goal is to build homes with materials that are, for the most part, environmentally friendly, but they must also be able to withstand the sheer force of hurricanes. Three possible materials that could be solutions for this problem are earthly materials, wood, and concrete. Each of these materials could be used to build sustainable homes that can with-stand the natural power of hurricanes on the Gulf of Mexico coast. Environmentally efficient materials can be used in the construction of new homes, so that when a destructive hurricane hits the Gulf Coast, many lives and homes are salvaged. This would help reduce the amount of pollution that is released into the environment post-storm.

The Problems

One issue that stands is that many homes on the Gulf Coast are destroyed due to hurricanes. Much of this destruction is caused by flooding since hurricanes produce large amounts of rain. In an article about the hurricane season of 2005, the authors wrote that “thousands of homes and businesses throughout entire neighborhoods in the New Orleans metropolitan area were destroyed by flood” (Beven et al 2008). This flooding was a byproduct of Hurricane Katrina, and it was a reason why many homes and other buildings were destroyed. Homes were not only destroyed by flooding, but also by the high winds of the storm. The strong winds surged through the coastline leaving “little more than the foundations of homes, businesses, government facilities, and historical buildings left in some areas” (Beven et al 2008). Hurricane Katrina was a strong storm that was catastrophic to the area and it left many people homeless for months and even years. Altogether, the flooding from copious amounts of rain and the strong winds “left more than 204,000 homes in Louisiana uninhabitable, damaged, or destroyed” (Pistrika, Jonkman 2010). The destruction of the homes was only half of the problem. Another major part of the problem was the pollution the buildings left behind when they are in pieces all over the surrounding area.

The second half of the problem is what happens to the pieces of the buildings that were destroyed by the homes. Many homes were ripped apart by the strong winds of the storm, and, in turn, began polluting the environment. Rivers and streams were polluted because flood waters carried pieces of homes and other unnatural materials such as: roofing, car parts, siding, and household items. These broken pieces of materials carried by flood waters were not the only contributors to the pollution. Oil was also a contributor to the pollution because there were “several million gallons of oil spilled from damaged facilities in southeastern Louisiana” (Beven et al 2008). This large amount of oil was spilt into the surrounding water bodies because oil rigs were destroyed, pipelines were busted, and refineries were flooded (Beven et al 2008). The combination of unnatural materials and oil polluted the environment, and that could be changed if there were different materials used to construct buildings.


The first solution would be to rebuild the destroyed homes or even new homes with earth materials. Some building materials that are categorized as earth based include: adobe, rammed-earth, cob, light-clay and straw mixed, and bamboo (Voelcker 2000). These materials are all-natural because they are made from renewable resources produced in the environment. Since they are renewable, these materials are all sustainable, and they would not drastically hurt the environment if a house made from any of these materials is destroyed. However, these materials are not ideal for constructing homes on the Gulf Coast since it is an area that gets hit by hurricanes. The large amount of rain the area receives during hurricane season would erode the houses, inevitably destroying them. Homes made from earthly materials could be an option for home construction in areas that are typically arid.

The second building solution would be to construct homes from wood. Wooden framing is the base material many American houses. Wood is a renewable resource, however, the way humans acquire wood is not exactly sustainable. This is because people clear cut forests, creating erosion and habitat loss. Humans also grow trees until they are a certain size, and then cut them down, this is known as tree farming. Wood is still used for constructing homes, but many companies treat the wood with chemicals. It is ideal to use treated wood in home contruction because it “is economical, durable, and aesthetically pleasing” (Vlosky, Shupe 2004). Wood is economical in a sense that people can keep growing trees to cut down, but when there are no trees mature enough to cut down, the wood can become costly since it would be hard to find. Once wooden homes have aged, meaning the wood has been exposed to water, wind, and other natural factors for a long amount of time, they become vulnerable to the extreme winds and rain produced by hurricanes (Jain, Davidson 2007). When wood becomes rotten due to many years of exposure to natural elements or other forces, it will easily be destroyed during a hurricane. Wood is not the best option for constructing new homes since it is not entirely sustainable, and it does not have a long lasting durability.

The final, and best solution, is building homes with concrete. Concrete consists of a mixture of limestone and other minerals which harden as the mixture sits to dry. Houses made from concrete are sustainable because the concrete can be recycled or repurposed when it isn’t needed anymore, and it is made from natural materials that are plentiful on Earth. Concrete is an eco-friendly product for the following reasons: improves indoor air quality, is a recyclable product, reduces sound inside the structure, and is energy efficient (Puckett 2006). These qualities found by using concrete are not found when using other construction materials. Recycled concrete from Stapleton airport is said to be “of equal or higher quality than virgin mixes” (Puckett 2006). Not only can concrete be recycled, it is also a product that is strong, and harder for extreme winds and rain to destroy. According to Gary Bailey of the American Institute of Architects, “it's an extremely durable product” (Puckett 2006). Concrete houses could with-stand the natural forces of hurricanes.


In conclusion, homes along the Gulf Coast should be constructed with materials that are durable and reliable. These materials should also be sustainable so that if the homes were destroyed, they would not be that much harm to the environment. Hurricanes pose a threat to many homes along the Gulf Coast because of the damaging winds and rain they produce. If strong enough, the winds could rip apart poorly constructed houses. The copious amounts of rain produced by hurricanes could also flood areas, in turn, destroying wooden framed homes and eroding away earth material homes. Concrete is a product that could with-stand many natural forces because it is strong. It is also made from minerals and other sustainable products. More homes on the Gulf of Mexico coast should be constructed using concrete because it does not negatively affect the environment unlike other building materials.


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