Natural limestone and building lime for construction works.
On a drive home to Florida from a convention in Chicago some years ago, I had the opportunity to pay a visit to the incredible natural phenomenon known as Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.
Mammoth Cave is the most extensive cave system on Earth with over 365 miles of discovered passageways. Some geologists believe that there could be an additional 600 miles of undiscovered passageways in existence.
This internationally protected biosphere reserve holds one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems that about 130 different life forms depend on.
What is most intriguing about Mammoth Cave is the ability of how this beautiful treasure can sustain life in the depths of its mysterious core.
Mammoth Cave is an extremely biodynamic system. I compared this natural phenomenon to human anatomy, where plants and trees function like the pores of our skin and hair follicles.
Entering Mammoth Cave is like entering a layer of the earth’s skin. What I discovered immediately is that life below the entire cave system is dependent on the ability of a highly permeable outer layer. Subterranean life would not exist without it.
Further into its core and into the life-blood of Mammoth Cave is a vast network of rivers and streams which begin by a complex filtration process where rain water passes through many sedimentary layers of dirt, sand, clay and other forms of sedimentary stone – and eventually towards the important role of limestone.
Limestone (or Lime as a building material) is the remains of biological marine life from ancient oceans over millions of years ago. These once biological entities have been compressed and solidified as limestone by the earths ever-changing biodynamics.
The limestone that is created by these ancient sea creatures are a compacted composition of micro-crystal calcium deposits that allow water to permeate through it. As water does not stand idle or stagnate, this is very important for life below.
The porous and breathable nature of limestone functions in a lot of ways like the bones in our own bodies – strong, yet capable of exchanging our blood.
In the case of Mammoth cave, limestone’s critical role removes layers of contaminants from above and percolates below as clean, purified water. The crystal clear, emerald green rivers and streams throughout the Mammoth Cave biodynamical system are the life-blood of this vast cave system.
When we look at natural phenomena such as Mammoth Cave, it makes one wonder how life below the earth can thrive so incredibly.
Limestone allows environments such as Mammoth Cave to exist because of its natural ability to filter, clean and exchange water – bringing with it oxygen, that provides and preserves life.
This is an incredible asset as a building material and why lime can be depended on for new construction today. In addition, Mammoth Cave provides the feeling of a temperate stable environment in summer and winter conditions, where a lime-built structure would do the same.
In the case of Mammoth Cave, as the ancients did in Egypt, Greece and Rome, we can look to nature as a guide to build better buildings today, into tomorrow.