SAN ANTONIO -

A century ago, adobe homes were a large part of San Antonio’s culture.

Then, seemingly overnight, clay and soil building materials were replaced by lumber and brick, now the standard for homebuilding.

History, however, may soon find a way to repeat itself.

"This is a device that will control temperature and heat and humidity without fans wires or switches,” exclaimed James Hallock, who runs Urban Earth, a company that focuses on using natural building materials.

Hallock was referring to a “compressed earth block”, better known to many as adobe.

Natives of Texas have long known about adobe’s benefit when it comes to extreme heat, but now the building material is poised to make a comeback.

“In a hot, humid climate, you get a much lower swing in temperatures inside and earthen blocks actually absorb humidity,” said David Komet, a developer. "Mold can't grow in them; they're bug-proof; termites can't eat them; and they’re bulletproof, if that's important to you."

Additionally, adobe is often soundproof. It was because of those reasons that developer David Komet decided to use the earthen material to construct a 14-unit cottage-style complex near Austin Highway.

"People say we can't keep cutting down trees as the population grows on earth and continues to build structures,” said Komet.

The buildings are made of an inexhaustible resource -- soil and clay -- which, unlike trees, makes using adobe a green option. Using adobe also makes the buildings fireproof and practically indestructible.

"We've been touting it for years for environmental reasons and health reasons and all that sort of thing, which is all true, but now people are coming rapidly to this technology because of energy costs,” said Hallock.

In this case, a 40 percent reduction in energy costs is expected.

The process of compressing blocks and laying them does take a bit longer, but construction costs are on par with a standard mortar building.

Images: CEB house

Published On: Mar 06 2013 02:34:38 PM CST

A new company is now making homes out of compressed earth blocks.

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