June 2, 2021 - 12:00pm

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image courtesy of Earthen Construction Initiative

Earthen Construction - Addressing the Challenges of Climate Change

As a general introduction to earthen construction, this presentation will describe what residential scale earthen construction is, especially in comparison with conventional wood light frame construction. Pros and cons of these differing construction systems will be touched upon within the framework of how each is an appropriate response (or not) to climate change. A brief history of earthen construction as well as a description of recent examples will be addressed as well as what might be the next steps toward greater acceptance in North America.

Learning Objectives

  1. Describe the attributes of earthen construction and how earthen construction, when properly utilized, is well positioned to face the challenges of climate change.
  2. Recognize that earthen construction has a centuries-long pedigree whose use continues to evolve and proves to be the ideal structural material for a variety of building types worldwide even today.
  3. Analyze some of the reasons earthen construction is currently in limited use in North America and what the next steps should be to generate recognition and encourage expanded adoption.
  4. State the primary differences between earthen construction as a residential structural material and wood light frame construction practice.  



Stephen Colley, AIA, LEED AP
Earthen Construction Initiative

More than ever before, living in South Texas means a higher sensitivity to energy conservation, durability, and indoor air quality while still including a sense of warmth, comfort, and delight.
Stephen has dedicated his architectural design practice with these critical issues in mind. In addition to architectural projects, he worked at the inception of Build San Antonio Green where he developed the family of programs for San Antonio’s award winning residential green building program. 
Stephen has developed green initiatives courses at Palo Alto College, and currently holds the position of President at Earthen Construction Initiative, a non-profit organization to advance and promote earthen construction.


While we are still practicing social distancing due to the pandemic, all meetings will be virtual, conducted via Zoom. To receive reminders, please sign up for the BEC Committee mailings in the footer of our website.

BEC: Austin is an interdisciplinary organization that promotes the exchange of information on building enclosures and related science specific to the climate of Central Texas.

Interdisciplinary:  architects, engineers, contractors, building owners, consultants, facility managers, code officials, educators, manufacturers, and those with a stake in building enclosure performance

Exchange of information:  discussion, training, education, outreach, and awareness

Building enclosures and related science:  energy-efficiency, moisture control, indoor air quality, longevity, and durability

BEC: Austin typically meets the first Wednesday of each month from 12-1pm.
2021 BEC: Austin Committee
Chair: Andrea Hellerman, AIA
Chair-Elect: George Wilcox, AIA
AIA Austin staff liaison: Julia Brown