Howard County Man Building "Green" Home Out of Dirt

by Anayeli Ruiz
NewsWest 9

HOWARD COUNTY - Imagine building a house that saves you money on your electric bills, but is also eco-friendly. Most of the materials used to build can be found in your own backyard.

That's what a man in Howard County is trying to do. A local man says he wants to make a difference and set an example by making his house "green." His main ingredient in the home is dirt.

"I wanted to do something earth friendly and energy efficient," Homeowner, Eric Herm, said.

So Herm ran across Earth Co. Building System, owned by Larry Williamson. Williamson, along with Texas Tech, did research for four years and came up with a way to build energy efficient and environmental friendly homes by using dirt.

"We take local earth, bring a factory out to the job site, and place the earth in it to make a giant block, carry it mechanically and set it in the walls," Larry Williamson, with Earth Co. Building Systems, said.

The giant blocks are made out of dirt right from Eric's backyard, the dirt contains no special chemical. All that's done is the dirt is put in a machine that compresses it and makes the blocks. The houses are like adobe house, but Larry says they're better.

"Adobe is sun dried mud, which makes a very nice house, but it's very energy intensive as far as labor intensity because the blocks have to be handled manually. When you put a lot of people on the job site, that runs the cost up considerably. Our blocks are very consistent in shape, more like manufactured brick, so basically they stack up just like a regular bricks. Every time we stack one of these blocks, it's like setting 50-100 small blocks manually," Williamson said.

The dirt block house also has plenty of benefits.

"The cost will be substantially less than conventional construction. You get all the benefits, it's dirt, it doesn't burn, it doesn't rot. It could last up to 10,000 years, if you keep it waterproof." Williamson said.

Not only will Hern's home be eco-friendly with no electrical heating or cooling system, but it will also be sturdy.

"We shot a 44 magnum through the wall and it only went 3 inches in to the wall," Hern said.

The bigger picture is to help start making this place greener one block at a time.

"We don't have enough forest left to supply all the timber to the people in the world and its not affordable anymore, so what we are trying to do is convert earth in to a building product that is almost all superior to any material that's on the market today and do it in a very economical and fast manner," Williamson said.

Overall, Hern is saving around $35-$40 on construction per square foot. When the house is complete, he expects to save at least $1000 per year on his electric bill.