in a 50 mile radius

Most people don’t travel outside of a 50 mile radius on a daily basis (and if you do, perhaps it’s time to move and/or find new employment!). Why shouldn’t our food and basic necessities remain local, too?

This is the thought that birthed the eat local, shop local movement and now, thanks to the Architecture Foundation of British Columbia, build local might be the next big movement!

According to, “The idea of a 100-mile house shouldn’t be shocking: Historically, most homes were made using local materials simply because it was more practical. But in an age when even middle-class homeowners can order marble countertops from Italy and bamboo floors from China, creating a home entirely from local materials challenges builders to carefully consider every piece of the structure, from the foundation to the eaves.

Last week, the Architecture Foundation of British Columbia launched an international competition to design a 1,200-square-foot, four-person home that exclusively uses materials made or recycled within 100 miles of Vancouver.

Not coincidentally, Vancouver was also the birthplace of the 100-mile diet: In 2007, after they learned that the average ingredient travels 1,500 miles to a diner’s plate, authors James MacKinnon and Alisa Smith chronicled their yearlong effort to eat only food sourced from within a 100-mile radius of their Vancouver home. Now, as the concept of sustainable building evolves, questions about where building materials are sourced and the environmental impacts of extracting, manufacturing, and transporting those materials are beginning to come into sharper focus.

Although a large percentage of the world’s population live in homes made from local materials, the idea of intentionally setting geographic restraints on modern building materials is relatively novel. One example of an existing 100-mile house is the home built by naturalist and writer Briony Penn in British Columbia, above. With help from builder Michael Dragland, she applied the principles of the diet to the 1,150-square-foot home she recently built on Salt Spring Island.

Penn milled all her own wood using a neighbor’s saw and collected cedar driftwood from nearby beaches. She also incorporated a large number of salvaged materials into the home, including a slate roof from her grandfather’s house (which had originally been salvaged from a different house), without ever stepping foot in Home Depot. Penn says she had to use plywood because of local building code, but she was able to find a Forest Stewardship Council-certified plywood company located within 100 miles.

The most difficult things to find within 100 miles were insulation and light fixtures, she says. For the insulation, she ended up using recycled rockwool, and she had some elements custom-made when she couldn’t find items that fit her criteria.

Penn acknowledges that building a 100-mile house can be significantly pricier than a conventional home—hers cost about $300,000—but she says it was worth it.” For reference, the price issue is the same when a client demands LEED Silver or greater, the price goes up. Is it worth it?

Read more, including comments, here.

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