Learning About Natural Building Materials

By Evelyn Parker,

USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter volunteer


While green building may be a new term to some, it is hardly a new concept for others, namely Dan Chiras. Founder and director of The Evergreen Center, Dan Chiras is a green pioneer, author, designer, and teacher of natural building. He has written over twenty books dedicated to the awareness and implementation of green building design and construction. Dan is also known for his lectures that focus on social, economic, and environmental-driven options for anyone interested in green building. USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter, in partnership with the Eastern Missouri Group of the Sierra Club, will host Dan for a lecture on Tuesday, July 12 from 5:30 – 7:30 pm. The lecture, entitled “Success with Natural Building Materials,” will explore the many natural building material options available to architects, builders, and homeowners, with a focus on strawbale construction.

Dan is well known for covering technical issues during his lectures. On July 12, he will examine proper foundation, moisture control, wall framing options, prepping walls for plasters, and which plasters provide the best protection for straw bale structures, as well as provide tips on pest and insect prevention. An important factor when considering natural building materials is climate since there are so many variations in heat and moisture across the country. Natural building materials that work in the Southwestern United States may not be as effective in the St. Louis region’s hot and muggy summers. Lucky for us, the Evergreen Institute’s Center for Renewable Energy and Green Building is located in Gerald, Missouri, so Dan can share his experience building with natural materials in a Midwestern climate.

The Evergreen Institute offers a comprehensive well of knowledge to better understand green building and sustainability. Builders, architects and homeowners interested in hands on learning or those who want to expand their knowledge of alternative options for green building materials can attend workshops at one of three Evergreen Institute locations – Evergreen, Colorado; Clarendon, New York; or Gerald, Missouri. The Evergreen Institute workshop topics vary – traditional home energy efficiency, introduction to solar electricity, small wind energy systems, or straw bale design and construction. There’s s bound to be an option for anyone looking to expand their experience and knowledge of green building and renewable energy.

Sustainability and green building can be more than complex than Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. And while the 3 R’s are a key part of green building, it is important to remember that sustainability applies to more than the way we build our homes or water our grass. Sustainability is about developing techniques and exploring alternative ways to use materials that are environmentally, socially and economically responsible. Green building practices not only prolong the supply of our natural resources, they also reduce long term spending costs without sacrificing the quality of construction.

Join USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter and the Eastern Missouri Group of the Sierra Club to learn more about green building and natural building materials on Tuesday, June 12 from 5:30 – 7:30 pm at the Ameren Missouri Headquarters, located at 1901 Chouteau. For more information or to register, visit www.usgbc-mogateway.org or call (314) 577-0225.

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