Get Green with Style Blog

Green Book Review – The Good House Book

by Hilary Sopata

The Good House Book: A Common-Sense Guide to Alternative Homebuilding
Written by Clarke Snell

The Good House Book is for the alternative home enthusiast.  Many other green design books touch upon straw bale construction, homes build with walls made of old tires, and perhaps a seemingly unique approach mentioned in passing.  Well, this book takes these alternative methods and spells out the details for you.  For instance, I did not realize that there are two types of straw bale construction – “infill” where the home is framed out and the straw bale is used more for insulation and “Nebraska-style” where the straw bales themselves are load-bearing.

Don’t think this book is just for building your escape-from-reality rustic log cabin in the mountains, though.  The homes featured in this book are those with modern conveniences such as electricity, running water, and glass windows – well, unless you want to live in a yome and Snell addresses that too.  What in the world is a yome?  Read this book and find out!  Snell compares traditional home building materials and techniques like stone, straw, adobe, and rammed earth with modern approaches to building and then presents the alternative solutions that are climate-sensitive, eco conscious homes for modern people.

Snell describes his book in two parts: “an introduction to housing through the lens of alternative building” and “specific real-world examples of how specific real-world people approached the interesting goal of building a good house.”  This book is very much about the structure and interworkings of buildings.  When you’re on the cutting edge like Snell, codes become and issue, and he addresses that.  I recommend this book for people who want the common-sense home building angle fused with non-common materials and techniques.  As Snell says in this book, “In order to build such a house, you have to know who you are, not who you want to be.”

Snell, Clarke (2004). The Good House Book : A Common-Sense Guide to Alternative Homebuilding (1st ed.). Lark Books. ISBN 1-57990-281-2


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