This is the first English translation of The Barefoot Architect (TBA), which was originally written in Spanish in Mexico in 1982. Obviously written with a Third-World audience in mind, TBA nevertheless has a multitude of useful ideas that could be incorporated into North American buildings. At first glance this handbook's 697 pages are intimidating, but fear not - this tome is extremely user-friendly, as it employs only simple drawings and brief text to convey a wealth of handy ideas for laymen/owner builders and professional contractors alike. The only exception to that last statement is that TBA has a rather skimpy index.
TBA starts off with a thoughtful design overview which shows how to situate your house, say, to take advantage of the prevailing winds, solar orientation, terrain, and vegetation on your building site. Subsequent chapters cover considerations and methods for building in deserts, jungles, and temperate zones. Granted, not many Norte Americanos will want to build their homes with bamboo, thatch or handmade adobe bricks, but there are plenty of examples of materials and construction techniques that I wouldn't hesitate to use where I live in Northwest Wyoming.
The use of modern insulating, siding, and roofing materials that would be familiar and available to Americans is little discussed. Remember that the primary audience for this handbook resides not in North America/First World, but in the southern hemisphere, where most citizens don't have our economic wherewithal. I would not use a lot of TBA's suggestions in the building of my primary residence, but for outbuildings, walls, gardens, get-away cabins, etc., I would use this book in a heartbeat for my construction bible. Thoreau would have loved it. Perhaps in a post-peak oil world, TBA will become a must-have resource for those of us who have to live more simply and take advantage of the building materials close at hand. Most discussions in TBA readily stimulate one to think of practical uses for the natural resources that surround us all.