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  • Writer's pictureClayton Vance


We’re always intrigued by the continual “advancements” in material technologies, “green building systems”, etc. But there is something to be said about the materials from nature and their.. dare I say... soul.

This is a big idea and a foundational principle of this entire theory. But first, I have to admit-we love technology. We have robots and will soon be interacting with A.I. systems in ways only dreamt of in sci fi movies. That’s exciting. But what’s the difference between you and me and all this technological wonderstuff? We are organic. We are made of nature. That fact ties our essence, or what I’ll call our soul, to natural things. No two people are identical. No two trees are identical. No two rocks are identical. We exist in a world where the differences of details within nature create an infinite variety within a species. Each individual thing embodying the essence of the overall character of the species.

That variety is where we experience beauty. We are not machined clones and nor should our building materials be.

There sure is a lot packed into that paragraph. What I’m essentially saying is the more you take nature out of the material, the more you chemically alter it and machine it, the more soulless it becomes. It will feel more dead, cold, and lifeless. There are ways to bring the life back when using engineered materials and we’ll get to that later, but you can design a fairly disorganized building and if you’ve used natural materials, there will be something pleasant about it.

I fully recognize that building with natural materials in today’s world is a near impossibility, but I bring it up to illustrate a point about our humanity and our infatuation with technology. The primary reason historic and old buildings, whether in ruins or still functioning, resonate with us is because of what they’re made out of ---natural materials. After a natural material completes its useful life for mankind in a building, it will return to nature. Engineered materials don’t do that—just think of the great plastic garbage patch.

No one looks at a vinyl fence falling apart and thinks to themselves how much character it now has as it ages. But you may think that for a wood fence or stone fence. As you work with natural materials, you’ll notice that each stone and each piece of wood will have a unique grain and color. That variety within natural materials resonates with our soul as it reflects the natural order of things and we find within it beauty.

I fully recognize that historic buildings were made of solid masonry and if you live in a region where you still build your houses in solid masonry, kudos to you, you’re already miles ahead. If you live in the US, it’s virtually impossible for you to build a real brick house. But that’s ok. We can do the best we can and use the materials we have access to in a manner consistent with their physical properties and come up with something really nice.

There was a lot of meat in this post and will likely bring up many questions. Don't be shy; leave a comment down below and let's get connected! I'm always happy to help.

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