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Building Green: A Complete How-To Guide to Alternative Building Methods Earth Plaster * Straw Bale * Cordwood * Cob * Living Roofs

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  256 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Clarke Snell and Timothy L. Callahan, whose popular Good House Book helped environmentally-minded readers create an earth-friendly home, have returned with a photo-packed, amazingly complete, start-to-finish guide to "green" housebuilding.

This absolutely groundbreaking manual doesn't just talk about eco-friendly building techniques, but actually shows every step! More than
Paperback, 616 pages
Published January 28th 2006 by Lark Books (first published December 15th 2005)
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Average rating 4.14  · 
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 ·  256 ratings  ·  36 reviews

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Mara Elwood
Apr 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art-and-craft
This is a massive book, but well worth it to investigate the process of four different construction systems. The authors give huge amounts of information about each of them and connect the information to the project of building a cabin with a green roof and four different wall systems (cob, strawbale, cordwood, and modified stick frame). They also talk about design and siting. There were several places where both authors had sidebars to check in with reality, and this brings a good does of reali ...more
Robert Bagnall
Feb 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Bit too wordy and too detailed - an idiot's guide to waters that an idiot probably wouldn't steer himself into - and, as the epilogue makes clear, 'how to' is very much dependent on your context, so all this book claims, in the end, is to map one particular green building journey. So not really a 'complete how-to guide' at all. ...more
Koen Crolla
Jan 09, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Stereotypically insufferable. Snell's concept of ``green'' is incoherent, informed by a kindergarten-level understanding of environmental impact and identity-based bullshit. He sure loves typing words, though.
There are a lot of pictures in this book and some of them are alright if you ignore the accompanying words, and the occasional Tim's Take sections, while not always containing information, often aren't actively wrong (Tim Callahan, the second author, being a contractor instead of a shit-for
3.5 stars

Great book, but it was I felt it was VERY nuanced to the exact building the authors were making—which is entirely their choice and building on their experience; I just expected a more general “textbook” approach of many varied building experiences based on the cover/description of the book. I had different expectations, but situationally this book was VERY informative.
Rebecca Schneider
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book was wonderful! I am basically a construction know-nothing but found it very accessible. At the same time, it would be a good choice for someone more skilled who wanted a primer to alternative building.

The book is mostly about design and problem-solving principles that could apply to any thoughtfully sited and well-built house. There are lots of step-by-step instructions, but they're there to illustrate principles rather than teach you every possible building technique. The authors are
Nov 09, 2014 marked it as to-read
Holy Jesus. I skimmed through this entire thing and am completely impressed. I'm also still smarting from the in-your-face reality slap I recieved. This book really brought it in terms of step-by-step, thorough, pragmatic instructions for building a green home from start to finish. Various construction techniques for various materials were presented with a relatively unbiased look at the pros and cons of each. I honestly feel that I'm likely to never build my own house now and that's a testament ...more
Jan 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
I skimmed this book, rather than read it cover to cover, as I have no immediate plans to buy or build a house. Rather, this book gave me some insight on alternate building materials, as well as the huge amount of work that goes into planning for and building a house. I appreciated the no nonsense and sometimes tongue-in-cheek advice that the authors gave. Too many "green" guides these days are so airy-fairy that it appears as if building an eco-friendly dwelling is as easy as wishing for one. No ...more
Apr 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: environmentalists, people interested in environmentally-friendly building
Recommended to Jodi by: from library display
This book is an excellent reference book for those who are interested in "building green", i.e., building with minimal impact to the environment due to the types of materials used and the ways the construction process is facilitated. Although I didn't actually read this book from cover-to-cover, I found that it had excellent and easy-to-understand descriptions of various types of "green building". The authors were not afraid to admit when they had made mistakes, and also pointed out both benefit ...more
Aug 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Excellent, excellent book. It truly is a complete how-to guide. The first part of the book is a review of why one builds really making you think about what you want in a building; in the second,the authors build a multi-material building. Each step of the building (and, to be fair, part 1) is beautifully photographed with diagrams, honesty about what worked well for them, and what didn't. Strongly recommend this book for those wanting to build and those curious about what's out there that's eco ...more
Jan 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
I've become quite interested in natural building and aspire to build my own little house in the country someday in the not-so-distant future...this book is 600 pages full of beautiful photographs and conversational-but-concise show-how tips. Enjoying it very much as a primer on the subject, though it's not as low-impact as it could be (using more conventional materials and tools than I would've expected, and water and electricity from the grid). ...more
Oct 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
I learned that building "green" is not just complicated by the fact that many of the methods considered green are works in progress. But it seems that you're faced with either doing or contracting it all yourself, or dealing with a contractor, even if willing, that will likely have *not nearly enough* "green building" experience to make a smooth go of it.

Good food for thought, though. Like I'll be building a house anytime soon!
Reed Robinson
Mar 17, 2010 rated it liked it
I am very interested in the whole green building movement. I think that it's great that we have more and more information on the subject, and I found this particular book helpful in showing specifics on a few different types of home construction. One thing that I would have liked to see is a cost analysis comparative to conventional construction. This would give those really serious about green building a better view of the project. ...more
Julie Armes
Aug 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book details the advantages and disadvantages of various green building strategies, and explains the entire process of building with each element thoroughly and with photos and diagrams. Their conclusion? There is no perfect, one size fits all solution, just a variety of criteria that each individual should examine to decide what options make the most sense given their own location, needs, preferences, and constraints.
Feb 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: home
This was a good book. It provided an excellent overview of many different alternative building techniques by allowing us to follow the authors through the process of building their little cottage, warts and all. Deffinately an excellent resource for those considering building without using stadard stick-framing methods.
Mathew Carruthers
May 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An excellent resource to keep in your DIY library. I've been looking for a used copy since I returned the copy I read to my local library. It is nice to see that traditional construction techniques are making a resurgence - build a better house with available resources for less money than a typical McMansion that has a two year engineered obsolecsence built into it. ...more
Sep 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An excellent overview of green building techniques through the lens of building a single, small, free-standing guest-house. You can use it to go in depth on how to build foundations, walls, etc. You can also skim it and enjoy the photos to get a loose sense of how the processes work.
Jan 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
My textbook to how to build my dream house. Now I just need to find the land and capital!
Mar 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
I think this book will prove an excellent resource. I like the idea that it is written by both a dreamer and someone who has experience in the field.
Apr 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The photos are great and plentiful. So much information...they even tell you what went wrong.
Apr 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is a resource book. Something you read and read again. Maybe one of the most comprehensive? Great photos and an inspiration to building green and out of the box!
Jul 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-cannon
Loved this book. When I need to build my next home out of cob I will buy it.
Nov 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book is chock full of info. I was mostly interested in the section on building with cob and found it to be very useable information.
Nov 12, 2008 rated it liked it
Wide and interesting overview of green building techniques. A very thick book and goes into more practical detail than most green building books. Great photography too.
Nov 13, 2008 rated it liked it
Really great photography in this comprehensive book. Follows two guys as they build a house with one cob wall, one straw bale wall, one cordwood wall, and one wood wall. Really cool info.
Dustin Reimer
Feb 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: always-reading
This is a very good hands on guide to green building techniques... anyone thinking of attempting to try any of these methods would find this book extremly useful
May 01, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Um, I've been living in houses all my life, but I don't know much about building them. ...more
Oct 21, 2009 is currently reading it
I am diggin' this book. I blame my Dad for the 'Build your own home' bug and this is/will be a great resource. ...more
May 22, 2010 rated it really liked it

Great pictures and descriptions and full of inspiration.
Feb 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Decent overview of alternative home building methods. Great look into how to design a home and keeping things practical.
Colin Price
May 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
I've skimmed this more than read it from cover to cover. I will be coming back to it as a go-to reference guide when I begin experimenting with some of the methods covered in the book, however. ...more
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I never intended to have a career in building. I became interested in construction because I wanted to build my own house. Now, many years later, I’ve built that house and along the way learned a brainfull of useful information that I'm dedicated to sharing with anyone who cares to listen, discuss, watch, or participate. I do that by writing, lecturing, consulting, designing, and, if the project i ...more

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