As global population continues increasing and deforestation becomes a more demanding problem, a global effort is needed to develop house construction practices that reduce the dependence on trees and promotes a more sustainable use of resources. This thesis evaluates the environmental implications of using local earth materials as a source of wall framing in residential construction rather than using the more common material, wood. This thesis analyzes the consumption of lumber for residential construction in the Phoenix metropolitan area in 1991. The analysis involves examining the four-stage "process" including: Extraction, Transportation, Construction and Operation of three building prototypes (adobe, wood, and rammed earth). Each prototype is compared according to its direct impact on the environment through measurable energy consumed, including air emissions, and projected land impacts from this use of fossil fuel energy. Results of this research show that building performance of a construction prototype is not the only consideration in choosing a construction material. It also shows that the entire energy path must be considered, in order to make the proper choices for sustainability.
This Master's Thesis was presented to Arizona State University for the degree requirements of Master of Science in Building Design May of 1993. Copies are available upon request. 97 pages.