Natural Building Projects
Over the years I have been involved in various natural building projects. I first was introduced to the idea when I did a straw bale building course with Barbara Jones, the first she ever taught. It introduced me to a whole world of sheltermaking possibilities, and I have not looked back since. I have learnt this stuff from a combination of working alongside some talented natural builders, reading books and magazines, and brazenly just having a go and seeing what works and what doesn’t.
I have seen again and again the power of sheltermaking. Also of the use of materials which again make the process of building accessible to everyone. I see natural building as one of the very important aspects of energy descent. How will we house ourselves when we no longer have the oil to produce high energy materials such as cement and steel? I address this in the talk I gave at the Fuelling the Future conference in June 2005 which you can hear here.
Having tried out most of the techniques in the natural builder’s pallette, I am often asked which is my favourite? For me it is cob, just because I love the feel of those huge monolithic walls. I have become slightly hesitant about strawbale, from the experience of my friend Quentin in Ireland who put moisture sensors in his walls and has had some rather alarming results. Cordwood is wonderful but the jury is still out on how the expansion/contraction works over a long time in this climate.
For me, there is a whole area of natural building that urgently needs exploring which no-one is (as far as I know, if you are, please correct me!). Most of the natural building literature refers to newbuild, certainly everything I built was. However, not that many people will ever get to build their own home, most are stuck with the ones they have. How can we use hemp, clay, straw, lime and so on to make the poor quality houses we have sufficiently well insulated and beautiful to enable their occupants to live out energy descent in comfort? This is the next great area of exploration for the natural building movement.