The construction and servicing of buildings probably has a greater impact on

the global environment than any other human activity. About 30 per cent

of the UK’s total energy consumption goes into the servicing of domestic

buildings, and a further 8 per cent of the total into the construction of build-

ings. There is a wealth of published material relating to the need to control

resource depletion by reducing energy consumption and to the problems

associated with the atmospheric pollution caused by industrial production

processes (to which the construction industry is a major contributor). This

brief introduction is not, therefore, a polemic, intended to convince the scep-

tical of the merits of green building. Rather, the aim is to explain how the

use of unfired earth and other associated natural materials can play a signifi-

cant role in reducing energy consumption while at the same time having a

minimal impact on the natural environment. In order to do this, it may be

helpful to first explain some definitions, or eco-jargon, which sometimes

cause confusion, and then to show how earth-based materials perform in

relation to these various environmental criteria.