Integrating Natural Building Materials into Mainstream Construction
The built environment must meet the highest demands of human habitation, resource management, and community enrichment. To achieve these goals, modern built environments should adopt a restorative environmental design with natural building materials that are locally available, minimally processed, and waste-free. When implemented in a hybrid manner, natural materials offer excellent thermal and hygrothermal properties that result in passive cooling and solar heating. Despite their advantages, natural materials still face challenges for comprehensive implementation. First, their technical data vary significantly, making it challenging to quantify their true performance for different climate and environmental contexts. Second, people mistakenly perceive these materials as low-tech and poor in their performance. Lastly, building codes and standards do not comprehensively represent these materials worldwide.
Lola Ben-Alon is an engineer, curator, and Ph.D. candidate at the at the
Architecture, Engineering and Construction Management (AECM) Program at Carnegie
Mellon University. She specializes in socially and environmentally sustainable building
practices, natural building materials, and engineering-architecture collaborations.
She has earned her BS in Structural Engineering and MS in Construction Management, both
cum laude, from the Civil and Environmental Engineering program at the Technion, Israel
Institute of Technology. Her doctoral research deals with Life Cycle Assessments (LCA),
perception, and building policy of earthen construction.
Parallel to her engineering background, Lola has earned a diploma in Critical and Curatorial
Studies at the Technion, where she has co-founded art.espionage, the Experimental Art and
Architecture Lab. She has exhibited various interactive urban interventions, public art, and
performance art in museums and galleries around the world, including the Shanghai Biennale
Gallery and Tel-Aviv Art Museum. She has also served as a curator and content developer at
the Madatech, Israel National Museum of Science, Technology, and Space.
Lola is passionate about fostering connections between academia and community, by
promoting social engagement in the production of the built environment. She is the academic
advisor of the TERRA Collaborative, an all-women organization that provides hands-on
natural building training for women and youth in developing communities. Through sharing
skills and knowledge that promote healthy and affordable living environments, Lola hopes to
diversify the building industry and to catalyze new intersections and creative dialogues among
the various disciplines of architecture, engineering, art, and sociology.