When .gov Regulations Get In The Way of Innovation

Is it innovation to want to use a millennia-old building technique? Apparently. It is also puzzling because in this day of “everything causes Global Warming” using more traditional/less-energy-intensive materials should be all the rage.

People think that buildings made of mud can’t last. But at least one city built of rammed earth has lasted for 500 years. Early sections of the Great Wall of China are older than that. How many buildings built in the last century will be here at the end of this century, or the end of the next?

This TED Talk is by Anna Heringer, an architect trying to change that. OK, so it is 13 minutes long. Get a cup of coffee; you might learn something. (It will only hurt for a minute.) Her talk is in English, but her accent is thick. Turn on the English subtitles if you have problems.

You would think that the Left would be all over this, because the material that is being used, where rammed earth could work, is concrete. Portland cement is a fairly energy intensive product. (For those who don’t know, it is the key ingredient in concrete.) And while concrete is required for some stuff, it is clearly not required for everything. Oh, and the thickness of the walls aids in insulating the structure. The walls are usually much thicker than you imagine. But can you imagine the chaos that would ensue if people were empowered to build their own homes, or out buildings?

Of course governments won’t let you build out of rammed earth, because their engineers don’t understand anything more exotic than cinder-block construction. And at least one jurisdiction had problems wrapping their mind around surface-bonding concrete and cinder-blocks because all they had ever seen was lines of mortar. But they only understand what they saw yesterday, and you want them to think new thoughts, and revisit their engineering texts, or dig out their ancient copy of the building codes, and can’t you just be like everyone else? What’s so wrong with 2 X 4 stick construction anyway?

3 thoughts on “When .gov Regulations Get In The Way of Innovation

  1. Cool link. Thanks for that.

    It is an interesting idea. The leftist argument for “sustainable” everything is transparently just meant to shut people up. Mankind used nothing but sustainable goods until the widespread adoption of fossil fuels. It meant cutting down trees to burn wood for fuel and cities knee deep in horse manure. In the 1890s, someone calculated that by 1930 the horse poop would be up the third floor of buildings. If we have no industrialization and don’t use animals for transportation or work, billions of people die. If you’ll pardon me pimping a 10 year old blog post of mine:

    I say this is transparent because nobody that has done the calculations thinks the “dream” renewables of windmills and solar panels concludes they could work to replace more concentrated energy sources, and we know a handful of prominent environmentalists have openly said they want 95% of humanity dead. If we relied on burning wood for energy there wouldn’t be a tree standing in the world in a few years.

    Still, mud has to work as a building material. I imagine that just as all sand isn’t sand, so there’s a sand shortage, all mud isn’t mud and all mud won’t be useful. You lived in Florida – we don’t have much clay in with the limestone sand we have here. I suspect the success depends on the right recipe for a region’s mud.

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    • Yeah, it does depend on a number of things, like the amount of clay in the soil. But even if you can’t use the material in Florida, you can use it in most of the Midwest. Or you could if engineers who work for county governments would let you. Which they won’t

      The level of disinterest is astounding. I tried (briefly) to get a permit for a surface-bonded concrete, concrete masonry unit (CMU) garage. This is a well-known construction technique, which the federal .gov even promoted for agricultural outbuildings during WWII because people could build them without contractors – who were mostly off fighting Germans or fighting in the Pacific. Struggling to get them to even look at a section of the building codes that they were not familiar with was enough to make me scream. What’s wrong with lines of mortar? What’s wrong with 2X4 sticks? Why do you think you can make me think about something new. “I’m from the government…”

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    • And it has been a long time since I thought that one answer could solve every problem. There are people who do of course. “Hey, let’s build an app for the Iowa Caucus this year. I love apps, and it is so modern and with it.”

      Even the school she built had a concrete foundation. And even if they have to completely rebuild the school in another 10 years, that foundation should still be good for decades to come – it won’t last forever either…

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