Building Up With Adobe, Straw and Sustainable Building in Israel

Unlike Americans and Canadians, Israelis are none too quick to start building with strawbale and adobe. I did meet a couple pioneers over the last 5 years who have built adobe homes: Lila, a German immigrant who lived near Arad in the Negev and Shai Gonorov, an eccentric Israeli living off the grid in Shaharut, down south near the Egyptian border. After the first winters’ rain (it only rains in Israel in the winter), Lila’s carefully-crafted kitchen melted into the desert sand and Shai, last I read, was giving workshops on mud.

In fact, I helped him once conduct a workshop at a design school for girls in Beersheva. As for strawbale, one well-publicised building was raised in the Negev, to serve as a Bedouin medical clinic. And due to that, strawbale building, for a stint, seemed to get lots of press.

I know of some Israelis who have ventured to the States to meet Athena and Bill Stein (and their charming children) at the famous strawbale ranch in Canelo, Arizona (hi Benito, Oso and Kalin!).

Now why I am mentioning this? This latest article on natural building in Israel appeared in the Hebrew newspaper Haaretz (translated to English) and shows me that the atmosphere for environmental building practices is changing.

According to the article, SBI a soil brick company operating in Israel, has created a magic solution for making mechanical and chemical bonds between components in the soil. Pouring the combined mixture into molds, they say, produces stable bricks that meet the needs of construction, such as strength and water-resistance, even though they are made of soil.

To date, 80 percent of production has been used for export; the rest used for constructing roads in Israel. Here is an excerpt: A strategic plan has been drafted, the services of architects and planners have been hired, and a national training center has been established – and last week, a world expert on the subject was brought here [to Israel] from India to head training sessions for teams of builders interested in unique construction processes. “The concept of building with earth is no longer a gimmick,” says Zeev Halber, CEO of the company.

What has become well known around the world is still not understood in Israel, the article points out. This company hopes to offer a standard and attractive solution to the Israeli building industry to improve environmental building practices and lay the green foundation for the years to come.

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