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The Building Science Podcast

The Building Science Podcast

Locavore Dirt Construction?

Do you know where your building materials come from? Reducing the embodied energy that our building materials carry is a crucial puzzle to solve in the sustainability efforts of the construction industry. And through the years, we've been asked a lot about natural building materials and how they relate to building science. Frankly, it's a nuanced conversation that requires a lot of unpacking preconceived notions about what constitutes a good product (from the perspective of liability, ecology, availability, serviceability, durability, etc.).

In this episode of the podcast, we interview Brad King of Earthbound Builders in Austin, TX. Brad is the brains and brawns behind applications of locally abundant, natural, minimally processed, low embodied energy building materials. His company is endeavoring to make natural building materials part of the main stream building processes rather than a custom, "hippie" solution. Check it out, think on it, and let us know your thoughts.

It’s possible to provide much-needed safe, comfortable, passive environments that are less reliant on mechanical systems and expensive bits and pieces.

Brad King is a builder and specialist in natural building products, including clay plaster finishes. His expertise is robust and he is a great resource for natural building questions and projects. 

Brad's company, Earthbound Builders, is a worker-owned collective of builders based in Austin, Texas. They focus on providing high quality, environmentally responsible construction services. Using natural building methods, local materials, and sustainable design principles, they create spaces that are healthier to live in, more beautiful to look at, and better performing than conventional alternatives. Earthbound Builders is committed to collaboration and quality.


Dr. Dirt 

Dr Dirt

As mentioned in the episode, read more about Dr. Clay Robinson, PhD and his work with soil science education in the United States. The resources are primarily designed for kids K-12, but the research in the soil science world has profound impacts not only on buildings, but on agriculture and larger sustainability issues. 



From the American Clay website:

"American Clay plasters are a natural way to finish any interior. Non-toxic and made in the U.S.A., our plasters are a healthy alternative to paint, wallpaper, cement, acrylic and gypsum plasters. American Clay offers eight plaster finishes, hundreds of colors, unlimited textures, and a depth not found in other finishes."


www.claysandstraw.com provides design, consultation, education and construction for straw bale, cob, adobe and timber frame buildings. Please reach out to them for natural building related questions and projects. 


Ann Sussman is interested in how buildings influence our behavior. Her book, Cognitive Architecture, written with Justin B. Hollander, reveals the unconscious tendencies at work when we navigate the world around us. These ‘hidden’ predispositions reflect our long evolutionary trip per recent research in psychology and neuroscience, and can help explain why we favor certain urban conditions and building configurations and shun others. Understanding ourselves better, Sussman believes, can lead us to build more humanely and ultimately, more successfully for people.

New York Times Article On Cob Houses

From the article:

LAGO VISTA, Tex. — As a senior systems analyst at the University of Texas, Austin, Gary Zuker lives in a high-tech world all week. But when the weekend arrives, Mr. Zuker retreats to a home that’s about as low-tech as possible. His getaway is a 900-square-foot cottage that he built himself out of straw and clay. To come upon it, tucked away on two acres in the wooded Hill Country outside Austin, is to find a storybook dwelling that could be Geppetto’s workshop or a Hobbit house...

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