A few words about Natural Building

Introduction

Wattle & daub technique

Sod houseBecause of its versatility and widespread availability, earth and straw have been used as construction materials throughout the world since antiquity and particularly soil is one of the oldest building materials; the first freestanding human dwellings may have been built of sod or wattle-and-daub. About 10,000 years ago, the residents of Jericho were using oval, hand formed, sun dried bricks (adobes), which were probably a refinement of earlier cob.

Earthen homes are common in Africa, the Middle East, India, Afganistan, Asia, Europe, South and Cetral America. One-third of the world's population is currently living in homes made of unbaked earth.

Green school in Bali, IndonesiaA simply definition for natural building, would be any building system which gives value on social and enviromental sustainability. Easy-to-learn techniques based on locally available, raw, renewable and recycled resources, ideally gathered from the site vicinity makes natural building very unique subject which rely heavily on human labor and creativity instead of on capital, high technology, and specialized skills.

Techniques

Earth construction takes many forms, including adobe, rammed earth, and wattle and daub. By adding a straw, the number of functional methods of natural constructions is expanded to Straw bale, Light straw-clay, Straw bricks and Cob. This provides a wide range of possibilities to choose one's own method for natural construction according to the climate zone and the availability of raw materials.

House from adobe The rammed earth technique Straw-bale house in Russia Stuffing the walls with light-straw-clay
Straw-bricks Cob house in the United Kingdom

All the techniques of Natural Building are very flexible and forgiving medium. It needs dedication more than physical strength and willingness to experiment, more than skills. Building with natural materials is an easy way to go on a big adventure!

Climate and Materials

The right method for natural building varies according to the climate of each place. Temperature and availability of materials for construction are playing the main role. For the desert areas the ideal technique is cob which holds the night's cool throughout the day, slowly heating up to release the day's warmth at night. For cold climate the insulation is needed and here with a help is coming a straw which is an amazing isolator for walls, straw bale technique is a solution for this kind of climate.

Foundations

Foundation with stonesAvailability of materials is important for choosing the type of foundations. Stone is the best and will still be the best a few thousand years from now, after the home has returned to the elements. Collected stones are placed on the ground like puzzle. To eliminate chemicals elements even within the foundations, cob or earthen mortar is used to avoid the moving of stones.

Foundations with earthbagsIn dry climates a good option for foundation is the use of agricultural bags filled with earth tamped. This concept was originally presented as a Superadobe technology by architect Nader Khalili to NASA for building habitats on the moon and Mars!

 

Bibliography:

  • The Cob Builders Handbook. Becky Bee
  • Natural Building Colloquium (The Case for Natural Building). Michael Smith

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