Certainly recent events in the Gulf of Mexico have made more of us come to the clear realization that whether it’s our supply or just that hole in the bottom of the ocean, oil is running out.

So we push for solar power.
And we push for wind power.
And we push for hydro power.

All to replace the coal and oil upon which we’ve built our economies, our technologies, and our societies.  So now we find ourselves up against the wall.

We’re up against the wall of Peak Oil and we’re up against the wall of hostile societies and governments that control much of the oil that is left.

But what has this to do with eco+historical, you ask?

Well, a big part of what we’re trying to do here is to hold on to our past (from an architectural perspective) while embracing our future (i.e. reducing our carbon footprint, reducing our water needs, and making spaces for people to connect with each other for happier and healthier families).

  • We go about doing that through simple things like insulation and water-efficient faucets and toilets.
  • We do it through using paints and finishes with few or no toxic chemicals.

And now we have a great new choice coming down the road…

Walls that cool you on hot days and warm you on cool evenings.

National Gypsum, perhaps the largest manufacturer of what most of us call “Sheetrock” (the wall material in most every home built in the last 60+ years), has a new product in development called ThermalCORE that builds tiny wax capsules called Micronal into the wall board which melt when the room temperature gets hot (i.e. they absorb heat, making the room cooler) and which solidify in the cooler evening or night hours (i.e. giving off the heat they absorbed, warming a cool room somewhat).

Generally speaking, this concept is as old as architecture.

It’s been known for millenia that thick stone or dirt walls insulate well and absorb heat all day long (via a concept called Thermal Mass), keeping the house cool during and then slowly releasing it over night as the air outside cools, heating the house in the evening and night.  This is how the adobe mud structures of the Pueblo Indians were built – with 1 to 2 foot thick walls that kept their homes cool in the hot desert sun and yet, as the walls absorbed the heat, kept the homes warm in the cold desert nights.

eco+historical friends Mike Thompson and Irene Kuffel have a home up in Napa built using Rammed Earth, another thick-walled building technique whereby dirt and a little cement is rammed into forms under high pressure to form thick walls with tremendous thermal mass.  Even on Napa’s 100+ degree days, the home stays cool, warming up very slowly over the course of the day.

If you’d like to check it out, they have a great guest house that you can rent out (and have access to their pool and amazing gardens) for your little dream vacation (or even your quick weekend getaway from the Bay Area) in Napa.  Check out Farms Akimbo and see up close how your walls can fight our dependence on foreign oil!