An Earth Home Renovation by Fritz Hubig

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The following was written by guest contributor Fritz Hubig

With Green building seeing measurable growth across the region, the Regan family found a novel way of meeting their own growing needs, picking up a bit of history, and saving a great lot, complete with small rancher house, in the process.

After a lengthy search for a local contractor to do their “dream green” renovation, Jenni Regan and her husband were nearly ready to give up. Contractor after contractor interviewed proceeded to tell her that the design features she wanted, including ceiling-height wraparound windows, would be impossible to do in an energy-efficient way. As a successful business owner, Jenni doesn’t settle for “not possible.” Most contractors had no vision or experience in innovative and high-performance home renovations. To the Regans, there were also signs and indications of “Greenwashing,” or misrepresention of the proposed renovations, as eco-friendly.

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When all seemed lost, a chance business contact connected the Regans with John Spears, President of Sustainable Design Group, who has 30 years of extensive sustainability design experience. Continues after the jump.


The Regan’s were searching for a renovation with a low carbon footprint and a contractor who understood their needs. What they found, to their surprise, was that the answer was literally right under their feet. Their dream project would tap into one of humankind’s oldest building techniques – now known by Sustainable Design Group as an Earth Home. Earth Homes use a blend of techniques and local, natural resources for construction.

Spears is accustomed to a barrage of questions from those newly learning about earth construction, and we asked him to give us a 101 tutorial on the hows, whys, and other frequently asked questions he receives, using the Regan Family add-on as an example:


No major construction changes were needed to upgrade the Regan house into an environmentally-progressive home. Soil was excavated from the property itself and compressed with a proprietary mixture of materials into bricks. Walls formed with these earth bricks were externally insulated with natural ingredients like foamy, soy extracts, and the interior was coated with clay plaster, like any other house. Additionally, Spears could also include AAC (Autoclaved Aerated Concrete), which he used for his own office, or other materials. He is constantly researching new materials.

Because these homes can include a choice of siding, brick, or plaster on the outside and smooth plaster or textured walls on the inside, you might never know there are Earthen walls beneath. But upon entering one of these homes, you might feel a sense of comfort and warmth, and notice healthier air than in typical new-home construction.


As it turns out, earth bricks have unbelievable thermal-regulation properties. Earth brick walls are rather well equipped to harness the solar energy, as they are a great thermal mass material. Earth construction has the ability to absorb more sun-heat during the daytime, protecting the interiors from excessive heating. During the night, the absorbed heat is gradually dispelled. Many of the buildings that John constructs can stay comfortable without a heating and air conditioning system. Furthermore, earth bricks have proven to be excellent at controlling humidity levels inside the house.

Is It Easy to Clean?

Yes! Same as in a normal house.

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To find out more about this or find other unique real estate, please immediately contact Fritz Hubig GREEN® Realtor® DC | MD | VA through email [email protected] or call on (202) 552-0553.

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