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The 100 Mile House: Building A Truly Local Home

Forget eating local—try local construction. Your house is probably made from materials from all over the place. A new contest asks architects to design a residence that’s built entirely from locally sourced materials.

One hundred—or one thousand—years ago, it would have been a no-brainer: of course you’re going to build your house or decorate your cave with local materials. Planes, trains, and automobiles changed all that. Today’s homes are built with materials from all over the world. But as with local food, there are benefits to building homes with local materials, such as supporting the local economy, minimizing excess energy use, and and cutting down on waste.

The 100 Mile House competition challenges participants to reverse that trend by designing a four-person, 1,200-square-foot house built entirely with materials that were made, manufactured, or recycled within a 100-mile radius around Vancouver, British Columbia. Sponsored by the Architecture Foundation of British Columbia, the competition is open to all—even those of us more than 100 miles outside the Canadian city.

Entrants won’t have to consider compliance with city regulations or even affordability in their homes. That latter point makes things a lot easier—it can be more expensive to work with quality local materials than cheap imports.

There is plenty of inspiration to be found, if you know where to look. This locally sourced Chilean home is made out of recyclable glass, steel, and aluminum, as well as local stone and cypress wood from fallen trees. On a larger scale, there are a number of companies that sell only locally sourced building materials. AP Sawmill and Lumber Products, a sawmill located in Flagstaff, Arizona, sells locally harvested Ponderosa Pine.

It’s unfortunate that the 100 Mile House competition has to question whether it’s "possible in a modern 21st Century city like Vancouver" to build a truly local house. But perhaps one day, when oil prices are much higher than they are now, local building won’t be such an anomaly.