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    Australia Avalon Member Constance's Avatar
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    Default Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Natural homes can be such beautiful, timeless, welcoming and restful places to be. If you have ever had the opportunity to visit, live or stay in a natural home, you might well understand what I am saying here.

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    I have always seen the home as a natural extension of one's self, and when you are living in a space that feels warm, homely, comfortable and is aesthetically pleasing, you can't help but feel good inside.

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    Natural homes, in addition to being practical, energy efficient, cost affordable (depending on how you build) and earth-friendly can also be whimsical, highly personalised and can incorporate recycled natural materials.


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    Over many years now, I have been deeply interested in mastering the art of natural living and in particular, in building my own natural home and helping others to do the same.

    When I first started to think about building a natural home, it all seemed rather daunting at first. When I first took the plunge to build my own home with natural materials, I often wondered what I had gotten myself into.

    I didn't have any experience whatsoever (apart from a few workshops and building an earth dome) and I had only the most rudimentary of carpentry skills. However, what I soon discovered was that as long as you have two hands, an imagination, the time, the access to resources, and some helping friends along the way, almost anyone who is willing to have a go at it, can build a natural home.

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    Our living room wall being plastered with cob with a little help from a friend

    I'm still the amateur when it comes to building; I've made a few mistakes along the way and there were many times when I had to improvise (too many times to count!) but I soon learned that Mother natures materials are very forgiving, and this was a really crucial factor in helping to build my confidence. If you have ever played with clay, you will know what I am talking about.

    When it comes to experimenting with creating something new, the beauty of working with natural materials is that they are very pliable/flexible in their nature. Natural materials like cob, strawbales, light clay straw, hempcrete, bamboo and wood can bend and mould into different shapes and forms; you are only ever limited by your imagination as to what you can create. So you can play, you can get really creative with what you are doing and at the end of the day, if something hasn't worked out, you can simply reuse or repurpose the material, or if it is not working out at all, return it to the earth!

    Many countries experience housing shortages for many reasons, poverty, war, uninhabitable spaces, lack of land, environmental disasters and overcrowding, (forgive me if I have missed anything here).

    Mother Earth needs us now more than ever to be building natural homes.

    Whilst we can never return to being cavemen, we can look to the most natural solutions that are most harmonious to us all. We need to build more homes made or derived out of natural materials local to our area (vernacular), materials that are 100% biodegradable, and cost-effective. As my favourite natural builder Sigo Koko says, "Build like you give a damn!"

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    Building a natural home can also be a community builder. Natural building takes time and when you invite your local community, friends and family to participate, it can also be a lot of fun. It is a project that can bring people together, create common ground and saves on labour costs.

    To build, or to live in a natural home has the potential to bring so many rewards for not just our generation, but for many future generations to come.

    We also need to consider, the mini ice age that will be here in our lifetime. We are going to be needing homes that are well insulated and well built. The thick walls of many different types of natural homes such as strawbale can keep a house passively warm in winter with minimal heating required.

    See these threads here for more information about the coming mini ice age.

    http://projectavalon.net/forum4/show...over-the-world

    http://projectavalon.net/forum4/show....-is-it-a-scam

    I do hope to inspire someone along the way, even if it is to begin the first step in considering the relationship that we have between ourselves, our homes and Mother Nature. I feel that the further that we distance ourselves from living in harmony with nature, the further we have distanced ourselves from being able to live in peace, to return to our natural state, and to well and truly know who we are.

    I would love to share all the resources I have gathered, share all the practical advice and solutions I have received from those who have trodden the path before me, share practical how-to video's, contribute some of my own unique ideas, and share beautiful photographs of some of the most inspiring natural homes I have seen from the past and present.

    I would also like to invite you to share your own building experiences, your natural homes and things you have learned here too!
    Last edited by Constance; 29th January 2019 at 07:55.

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    thanks for sharing, here are some examples of ancient ways of building but operating in the present day.
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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    I prefer to live in a house with lots of air circulating The more I'm expose to the elements of nature the healthier I become. Of course freezing is not a concern in our place. I dont normally sleep in the family house I normally have a makeshift house at the back with 3 walls or a portion of roof open.

    https://i.ytimg.com/vi/15DgbzQmpsU/maxresdefault.jpg

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    Germany Avalon Member Reinhard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Alyoshas USA workshops in February might be of interest:
    https://www.bioveda.co/usa-tour?inf_...c0223e68310bb1
    The very moment the caterpillar thought the world would end, it turned into a butterfly.
    Laotse

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    Australia Avalon Member Constance's Avatar
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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    These are beautiful buildings Spade. The use of catenary arches and is that sandstone I see for the walls?

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Quote Posted by Bubu (here)
    I prefer to live in a house with lots of air circulating The more I'm expose to the elements of nature the healthier I become. Of course freezing is not a concern in our place. I dont normally sleep in the family house I normally have a makeshift house at the back with 3 walls or a portion of roof open.

    https://i.ytimg.com/vi/15DgbzQmpsU/maxresdefault.jpg
    Bubu, that is really wonderful that you are so close to nature. Is that your home?

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Quote Posted by Constance (here)
    Quote Posted by Bubu (here)
    I prefer to live in a house with lots of air circulating The more I'm expose to the elements of nature the healthier I become. Of course freezing is not a concern in our place. I dont normally sleep in the family house I normally have a makeshift house at the back with 3 walls or a portion of roof open.

    https://i.ytimg.com/vi/15DgbzQmpsU/maxresdefault.jpg
    Bubu, that is really wonderful that you are so close to nature. Is that your home?
    Nope I use to have one very similar but much bigger back in 2005 to 2010 I dont have a camera back then so no photos.

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    Australia Avalon Member Constance's Avatar
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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Natural materials tend to be on the bulky/heavy side and transportation costs can become extremely prohibitive as a result. It is best to use local materials if you are building with natural materials.

    You can often obtain local materials at a very low cost, or if you use the earth beneath your feet, it can be free!

    These are some of the different types of materials you can find being used to build natural buildings around the world.

    Walls and structures

    Adobe or cob - walls built out of the earth and water, sometimes using organic material such as straw or dung.

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    Bamboo

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    Cordwood

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    Caves

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    Earthbags - hemp bags filled with earth or cob

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    Last edited by Constance; 30th January 2019 at 06:23.

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Hempbale - hemp bales covered in lime render

    Mud brick or adobe bricks - mud packed into formwork and dried in the sun

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    Rammed earth - soil packed into formwork

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    Stone

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    Strawbale - strawbales tied together and covered in cob or lime render

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    Turf - homes built from wood/earth and then covered in Turf

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Hempcrete - composed of lime and hemp hurds and then rendered in lime render. Hempcrete originated in France

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    Light straw clay - straw and clay packed into formwork between timber studs and then rendered with cob or lime.

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    Underground homes- underground structures built by removing rock

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    Wattle and daub - woven structures packed with cob

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    Compressed earth bricks

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    Last edited by Constance; 7th February 2019 at 03:36.

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    What is COB?

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Cal Earth in the desert of California. They have a variety of different structures and classes to learn how to build them. At the time I went there about 12 years ago it would cost about $6000 to build one but it would take about 4 connected together for a living space.

    They build them in disaster areas all over the world.

    https://www.calearth.org/superadobe-structures-calearth




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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Quote Posted by amor (here)
    What is COB?
    Hi Amor

    Cob is a mixture of soil, water and organic matter, (such as straw). Soil quality can and will vary, so to improve a cob mix, sand and clay are sometimes added.

    It is a lot of fun building with cob as long as you are not building a large house. If anyone has seen Kevin Macleods Grand Design episode on the 10,000 square foot (929 square metres) Cob House they will know what I am talking about.

    To mix cob effortlessly, you can use your feet! The technical term is called, cob stomping

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    Here is a short video describing the benefits of cob.

    Main take home points:

    • It is completely environmentally friendly.
    • It is very hands-on type of work, labour intensive - a great family and community builder.
    • It can cost you almost nothing to build with cob.
    • It is super-durable and strong. (providing that it has a good top hat and good foundations)
    • It can be extremely efficient to heat.
    • It is termite and fire proof. (and depending on how you build, earthquake proof)
    • You can shape cob into any form you like.
    • You can use cob to support load bearing materials eg. roofs
    • There are many earthern homes around the world that have lasted for centuries.
    • It can be challenging to build a natural home built with cob due to conventional building/government regulations.
    Last edited by Constance; 30th January 2019 at 06:38.

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Quote Posted by latte (here)
    Cal Earth in the desert of California. They have a variety of different structures and classes to learn how to build them. At the time I went there about 12 years ago it would cost about $6000 to build one but it would take about 4 connected together for a living space.

    They build them in disaster areas all over the world.
    Latte, I've also had experience with building one of these shelters myself. The only issue I can see with adopting this method is the extensive use of plastic bags. Because of that alone, I wouldn't place it in the category of a "natural home". However, upon saying that, in emergency situations, a Cal Earth shelter would be perfect.
    I have seen Earthbag shelters made out of hemp but how well the structure would hold together once the hemp biodegrades is anyones guess.
    One would be better off building a cob dome maybe just because of how the straw/clay binds and holds everything together? The only issue I see with cob domes is that under high rainfall, the cob render will eventually become compromised and degrade.
    Last edited by Constance; 31st January 2019 at 08:23.

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    A Pattern Language is a valuable book for anyone planning to build a home or a community. This beautiful and timeless book is still used by architects today.

    You can use this book to design a house for yourself with your family; you can use it to work with your neighbors to improve your town and neighborhood; you can use it to design an office, or a workshop, or a public building. And you can use it to guide you in the actual process of construction.

    After a ten-year silence, Christopher Alexander and his colleagues at the Center for Environmental Structure are now publishing a major statement in the form of three books which will, in their words, "lay the basis for an entirely new approach to architecture, building and planning, which will we hope replace existing ideas and practices entirely." The three books are The Timeless Way of Building, The Oregon Experiment, and this book, A Pattern Language.

    At the core of these books is the idea that people should design for themselves their own houses, streets, and communities. This idea may be radical (it implies a radical transformation of the architectural profession) but it comes simply from the observation that most of the wonderful places of the world were not made by architects but by the people.

    At the core of the books, too, is the point that in designing their environments people always rely on certain "languages," which, like the languages we speak, allow them to articulate and communicate an infinite variety of designs within a form, a system which gives them coherence. This book provides a language of this kind. It will enable a person to make a design for almost any kind of building, or any part of the built environment.

    "Patterns," the units of this language, are answers to design problems (How high should a window sill be? How many stories should a building have? How much space in a neighborhood should be devoted to grass and trees?). More than 250 of the patterns in this pattern language are given: each consists of a problem statement, a discussion of the problem with an illustration, and a solution. As the authors say in their introduction, many of the patterns are archetypal, so deeply rooted in the nature of things that it seemly likely that they will be a part of human nature, and human action, as much in five hundred years as they are today.

    Some snippets from the book.

    Pattern language # 133
    Staircases as a stage

    A staircase is not just a way of getting from one floor to another. The stair is itself a space, a volume, a part of the building; and unless this space is made to live, it will be a dead spot, and work to disconnect the building and to tear its processes apart.


    Place the main stair in a key position, central and visible. Treat the whole staircase as a room (or if it is outside, as a courtyard.) Arrange it so the stair and the room are one, with the stair coming down around one or two walls of the room. Flare out the bottom of the stair with open windows or balustrades and with wide steps so that the people coming down the stair become part of the action in the room while they are on the stair, and so that people below will naturally use the stair for seats.


    Pattern language # 197
    Thick walls

    Houses with smooth hard walls made of prefabricated panels, concrete, gypsum, steel, aluminium, or glass always stay impersonal and dead. Open your mind to the possibility that the walls of your building can be thick, can occupy a substantial volume - even actual usable space - and need not be merely thin membranes which have no depth. Decide where these thick walls ought to be.

    Pattern language # 202
    Built-in seats

    Built-in seats are great. Everybody loves them. They make a building feel comfortable and luxurious. But often they do not actually work. They are placed wrong, or are too narrow, or the back does not slope, or the view is wrong, or the seat is too hard. This pattern tells you what to do to make a built-in seat that really works.

    Pattern language #203
    Child caves

    Wherever children play, around the house, in the neighbourhood, in schools, make small "caves" for them. Tuck these caves away in natural leftover spaces, under stairs, under kitchen counters. Keep the ceiling heights low - 2 feet 6 inches to 4 feet - and the entrance tiny.


    Pattern language # 204
    Secret place

    Make a place in the house, perhaps only a few feet square, which is kept locked and secret; a place which is virtually impossible to discover - until you have been shown where it is; a place where the archives of the house, or other more potent secrets, might be kept.

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Quote Posted by Constance (here)
    Quote Posted by amor (here)
    What is COB?
    Hi Amor

    Cob is a mixture of soil, water and organic matter, (such as straw). Soil quality can and will vary, so to improve a cob mix, sand and clay are sometimes added.

    It is a lot of fun building with cob as long as you are not building a large house. If anyone has seen Kevin Macleods Grand Design episode on the 10,000 square foot (929 square metres) Cob House they will know what I am talking about.

    To mix cob effortlessly, you can use your feet! The technical term is called, cob stomping

    Attachment 39804



    Here is a short video describing the benefits of cob.

    Main take home points:

    • It is completely environmentally friendly.
    • It is very hands-on type of work, labour intensive - a great family and community builder.
    • It can cost you almost nothing to build with cob.
    • It is super-durable and strong. (providing that it has a good top hat and good foundations)
    • It can be extremely efficient to heat.
    • It is termite and fire proof. (and depending on how you build, earthquake proof)
    • You can shape cob into any form you like.
    • You can use cob to support load bearing materials eg. roofs
    • There are many earthern homes around the world that have lasted for centuries.
    • It can be challenging to build a natural home built with cob due to conventional building/government regulations.
    someone has to come up with a cob mixer then it would be a lot easier to build with cob and save the foot.

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    Concerning Cob housing. The best way to do this and it is purely natural, Is to do the mixing with bare feet. One gets to feel the earth between their toes while they are stomping the mud mix. The most important part of this is to have two pits, One full of grapes that you get folks in a community minded way to stomp the fruit into wine while the other groups stomp the mud mixture. This way everybody gets happy and the building moves right along. Do not mix the mud stompers with the grape stompers though, could make the wine a bit gritty.

    Concerning the codes of local and state authorities. All of the above structures built with the natural materials have been around for 1000's of years and there are many of these types of structures still standing today. The building codes did not come about until 1927 in the United states and the book was very thin and small. It was created more by the Fire departments at the time. These codes were more or less for Fire, Life and Safety. simply because of all the big devasting fires in the big cities like New York and Chicago. I could talk alot about the codes and will later. The long story short of this happenstance was to turn the standard natural building materials into an alternative way to build while the codes required people to ask permission to build on their property and use the only materials that became mandated by the government. I will discuss the alternative materials later and how the codes regulate them in the United States.

    Steven
    Last edited by Lost N Found; 1st February 2019 at 19:37. Reason: fix spelling

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Quote Posted by Lost N Found (here)
    Concerning Cob housing. The best way to do this and it is purely natural, Is to do the mixing with bare feet. One gets to feel the earth between their toes while they are stomping the mud mix.
    It's quite healing (the mud) and meditative too. And fun! Mud fights anyone?


    Quote The most important part of this is to have two pits, One full of grapes that you get folks in a community minded way to stomp the fruit into wine while the other groups stomp the mud mixture. This way everybody gets happy and the building moves right along. Do not mix the mud stompers with the grape stompers though, could make the wine a bit gritty.
    I'll take my grape juice fresh, on the rocks.

    Quote I will discuss the alternative materials later and how the codes regulate them in the United States.
    Thanks for this Steven Greatly appreciated.

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