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$39.95 $25.95 USD
$39.95 $25.95 USD
Publisher: New Society Publishers
Pub. Date: 2014-03-01
ISBN: 9781550925388
Format: Digital - 464 pages
Size: 8" x 9.125" (w x h)
BISAC: ARCHITECTURE / Sustainability & Green Design

Making Better Buildings (PDF)

A Comparative Guide to Sustainable Construction for Homeowners and Contractors

From foundation to finish, a wealth of information is available on sustainable construction methods-entire volumes have been published on individual green and natural building techniques. But with so many different ideas to choose from, there is no single resource that allows an owner or builder to quickly and objectively compare the merits of each system for their particular project.

Making Better Buildings cuts through the hype and provides the unvarnished facts about the upsides and downsides of the most widely discussed materials and technologies. Drawing on the real-world experiences of designer/builders, this comparative guide systematically and comprehensively examines each approach in terms of:

  • Cost, sourcing, labor intensity, and ease of construction
  • Energy efficiency, embodied energy, and environmental impacts
  • Availability/accessibility
  • Viable applications and future potential.

Each chapter is rounded out by a chart which summarizes the material in a quick and accessible manner.

Whether you are an owner preparing to build a green or natural home, or a conventional contractor determined to integrate sustainable alternatives into your existing construction practices, this up-to-the minute resource will help you make the best decisions for your project, while meeting your energy, efficiency, budgetary, and site-specific needs.

About the Author

Chris Magwood has designed and built some of the most innovative, sustainable buildings in North America, including the first off-grid, straw bale home in Ontario. He is co-founder and director the Endeavour Centre for Innovative Building and Living and co-editor of the Sustainable Building Essentials series. He has helped hundreds of people work through the process to design their own sustainable home and achieve their dreams. Chris is the author of Essential Prefab Straw Bale Construction, Essential Hempcrete Construction, Straw Bale DetailsMore Straw Bale Building, and Making Better Buildings.

"Making Better Buildings is essential reading for home builders, owner-builders, or anyone interested in hiring a contractor to build their green dream home. This book is full of useful, up-to-date, cutting edge information and is amazingly thorough and easy to read. It will help readers make the best decisions possible regarding energy efficiency, cost, durability, health, embodied energy, labor requirements, and so on. Quite possibly the most valuable book ever published on green building."
Dan Chiras, Ph.D., director, The Evergreen Institute ( and author, The Natural House, The New Ecological Home and The Solar House

"Comparing contemporary building technologies based on criteria such as embodied energy or energy efficiency is a huge job — a job that holds most contractors and owner-builders back from making informed choices. Chris Magwood has saved us all thousands of research hours with Making Better Buildings. This book is not only a tool for the builders of today, but is a marvelous textbook for the young, emerging building professionals of tomorrow."
Emily Niehaus, Founding Director of Community Rebuilds

"At last: clarity! There are more and more people all over the world who are discovering the joy and satisfaction of building for themselves with natural materials. Very few, however, are also able to teach, communicate and inspire those around them. Of that precious few, Chris Magwood is at the top of the list; his delight and mastery of the subject hums in every page. Whether you want a broad overview, or access to high-quality, practical information on specific subjects, this is the book for you."
Bruce King, PE, Director, Ecological Building Network

"If you're drilling deep into sustainable building and want more than superficial details, let Chris Magwood be your guide. Making Better Buildings will help builders and homeowners quantify the green building process, and better understand the impact of their decisions."
Scott Gibson, Green Building Advisor

"Chris Magwood's new book is exciting news for builders and homeowners everywhere! This includes people who haven't even heard yet of the ideas that Chris lays out with such accessible knowledge and clarity. As one of the most knowledgeable and experienced ecological builders in North America, practicality and efficiency is one of his prime concerns. As one of the leading natural builders in the world, his affordable ideas are offered for all scales, within his broad and creative vision."
Mark Lakeman, Communitecture Architecture & Planning, and cofounder, The City Repair Project, Portland, OR

"Based on Chris Magwood's considerable experience of sustainable buildings systems, this book provides invaluable guidance for builders, designers and those thinking of building their own home. Stripping away the hype, the book provides a rational and balanced assessment of alternative options for the major components of a building. It is particularly valuable since it includes a wide range of criteria such as cost, durability, code compliance and labour intensiveness together with environmental criteria, which make it a highly useful decision support tool for many sustainable building projects. Also, we are encouraged to get beyond the bickering about different systems at the "micro" level and to focus on the bigger picture, "macro" issues, when choosing building components and systems which will lead to significant change."
Professor Mark Gorgolewski, Ryerson University

"Making Better Buildings belongs in the library of every designer or builder in the green building business and should be read by every owner planning a new home. This is not simply green building — this is the future of construction! Chris Magwood has clearly described the pros and cons of the most viable natural building techniques and places them in context to create a tool that is timeless. All of the systems reviewed have the promise of significantly reducing the environmental footprint of construction."
Jeff Ruppert, P.E., structural and civil engineer, and publisher, The Last Straw Journal

"Ever wondered about the many shades of green in Green Building? The book you hold in your hand not only walks you through the vast array of techniques, written by one of the worlds most experienced green builders and educators, it also provides you with all the information necessary to compose the shade of green which suits you best. The information gathered here about issues such as techniques, embodied energy, health aspects are unique in the world, and is guaranteed to make this book the leading reference book for environmentally concerned building planners for years to come. Excellent work."
Max Vittrup Jensen, consultant, and director, PermaLot Centre of Natural Building

"We're often asked to recommend books to guide people along the path to building their own natural home. The list of books is quite short, but with Making Better Buildings it just got one important book longer."
Oliver Swann,

"This book is a must read for anyone trying to demystify the myriad of green building options. Chris Magwood packs this book with scientific data plus his unique hands-on experience. The result will leave every reader with a clear understanding of the benefits and challenges for a variety of super eco-friendly building methods."
Sigi Koko, natural builder, and founder, Down to Earth Design

"Chris Magwood offers a refreshingly objective analysis of technologies from foundations to finishes, informed by a very clear set of criteria that allows the designer or builder to compare and select the correct choice for their project. Where other books offer biased opinions, cursory overviews, or limited perspectives on building options, Making Better Buildings presents detail-rich, data-driven, experience-verified, field-tested solutions for every building component. This book is an invaluable resource for every building professional and motivated prospective owner seeking a trust-worthy source for information to help inform their practice. The name says it all."
Jacob Deva Racusin, author, The Natural Building Companion and co-owner, New Frameworks Natural Building

"Someday all buildings will be built sustainably; Making Better Buildings provides an expert compass for getting there. A must for any sustainable building library."
Martin Hammer, architect, lead author of the Strawbale Construction appendix for the 2015 International Residential Code, and co-director, Builders Without Borders

"It's a tall task to make the complex set of green building choices accessible and interesting – and Chris Magwood has done it well. As a teacher, and a systems and building consultant, I'd say this book ranks up there as one of the top three green building reference books. And it's the only one that covers the variety of building systems from foundation to roof so well, with enough building science, rationale and hints of philosophy to keep it beside your desk rather than the bookshelf."
Gord Baird, Eco-Sense (

"If you're about to embark on building a new home, whether you're a professional or homeowner, this manual will help you discover the materials most suitable for your location and budget, and that do less damage to the environment than many standard materials."
Cathy Rust, BE CGreen (

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