While the World Hands Project is currently going through internal re-organization I was happy to find that during past workshops they’ve helped people down in Mexico build some simple homes from shipping pallets.
Instead of using some kind of manufactured insulation they’ve actually been packing the pallet cavities with a cob like mixture. I imagine that this doesn’t add much structural strength but it would add some thermal mass and insulation qualities to the walls.
I’m not sure I would recommend this approach (mixing structural wood and dirt) since it might invite termites or rot over time but it does seem like a novel way to approach pallet house construction. I’m curious to know how these homes hold up over time. (Update: See the comments for more info on using pallets and cob and wood together)
To learn more about the World Hands Project and potential future workshops visit their website. World Hands Project
Actually, a clay/wood or clay/straw mixture between wood framing is an age old proven practice(and I mean 1000’s of years!). The clay seals the walls from air movement but the earth keeps it breathable and regulates humidity. The clay also preserves the timbers and the woodchip or straw gives it insulating loft and the earth walls gives it thermal mass for heat regulation.
After years of research into what building techniques would suit us best with our major objectives being to a) use mostly locally found materials from our own forest on clay soils and b) build to last a minimum of 500 years, this is, in fact, the exact building technique that we have settled on for our next (and final) house. We have settled on roundwood timber framing (less waste, more strength and beauty) infilled with light earth ( clay mixed with woodchips in our case since straw is not readily available).
Many homes/huts I saw in Mexico when I was last there were built of local indigenous wood which the locals told us were made from a species selected specifically because of its known weather and insect resistant properties. The tragedy would be if they adopted manufactured home technology using imported wood that wasn’t suited for that environment or had to be chemically treated to suit.