Natural Building around the World:

 
 
   
 
 


Naturally built homes use local, minimally processed, abundant and/or renewable natural materials. They are designed to suit their climate and geography, providing a modest shelter that can last for many centuries. Ideally they, and the way they are lived in, are in balance and harmony with the environment.

The resources used to build them are either so abundant that the impact of their use is not significant or they are easily replenished within the lifetime of the building.

This collection shows naturally built homes and public buildings from different climates using a selection of natural materials and building techniques.

 
 
 
           

In many parts of the world the traditional knowledge and skills used to build natural homes has been, or is being, lost as people become more dependent on a building industry that generally uses processed non-local materials. Natural homes are often built with the knowledge and experience of a supportive community. Here are nine such examples from around the world.

 
         
   
     
 

NM, USA

 

Adobe

This is Carole Crews adobe home, although it uses other natural building techniques too. Adobe is a mixture of clay, sand and straw formed into blocks which are left to dry in the sun before being used to build with. Carole tells her story about building her home in the video below. She has written a book, Clay Culture, which takes the reader through the traditional building methods of New Mexico to the restoration of earthen homes with recipes for mixing clays.
 
   

More adobe natural buildings...

 

   
         
   
 
 

Wales

 

Cordwood

This is the cordwood roundhouse at Denmark Farm in Wales. The roundhouse was built in 2008 by Tony Wrench leading a collection of over 60 volunteers. You can watch all the stages in the construction of the roundhouse in the video below.

Tony's cordwood roundhouses epitomise sustainable living. He has written the book Building a Low Impact Roundhouse sharing his knowledge and experience.
 
   

More cordwood buildings...

 

   
         
   
 

England

 

Roundwood

This is Ben Law's home in Prickly Nut Wood near Lodsworth, West Sussex, UK. The house is a roundwood sweet chestnut cruck frame with barley straw bale and wattle & daub walls and a roof of handmade Cedar shingles.

Ben is recreating the human scale approach to woodland management and sustainable living by combining sensitive woodland management with permaculture principles and natural building. He is an inspirational example of living in symbiosis with the natural environment around him.

At the time few people were using roundwood so Ben developed construction methods which he later documented in his most recent book Roundwood Timber Framing.

More about roundwood building...

   
         
   
 
 

Bali

 

Bamboo

These sea urchin shaped pods are the library and reception at Bambu Indah, John Hardy's hotel resort in Bali, Indonesia. The high silica content in bamboo means it cannot be easily digested by termites. Additional soaking in borax salt makes bamboo a reliable building material.

 
   
 

John Hardy talks about bamboo

 

More about bamboo...

   
         
   
 

Bhutan

 

Rammed Earth

A typical Bhutanese house (right) is a three storey rammed earth structure with space for livestock on the ground floor; a grain store on the middle floor and living quarters on the top floor. Another storage space is normally kept between the top floor and the roof for drying meat and vegetables.

The windows and doors of the house are painted with motifs of flowers and animals as decorations. This is one of the patterns, Ornament, No.249, recommended by Alexander. It makes a connection between the elements of the building and the life around them.

More rammed earth buildings...

   
         
   
 
 

Romania

 

Cob

This is one of the cob homes built by architect and natural builder Ileana Mavrodin of Casa Verde in Banat, Romania. Cob is a mixture of sand, clay and straw like adobe but not formed into bricks. Here's a recent interview with Ileana (in Romanian) where you can see her beautiful cob home.
 
   
 

Ileana talks about her cob home

 

More about natural building with cob...

 

   
         
   
 
 

Norway

 

Turf

This extremely well connected to the earth home is one of the Sami peopleís Goahti (a turf home, called a Gamme in Norwegian) used as a summer residence (Siida) at Gamtofta near Sorreisa, Norway. You can stay in these Sami homes, sleeping on reindeer skin beds warmed by an open stone circle fire, while you attend a workshop in Sami crafts (duodji).

The Goahti is built with two arches of timbers pegged with wooden pins that create a space when more timbers are laid on the timber arches. The timbers are then protected with birch bark held in place by thick, warm layers of turf. Here are the stages in the construction of the Goahti.

More about turf homes...

   
         
   
 

Poland

 

Straw Bale

This straw bale house was built in 2002 by Paulina of Earth Hands and Houses. It sits in beautiful countryside near Lake Hancza in northeast Poland. To build a home like this today in Poland would cost about £10,000 ($15,000) in materials but at the time it was £5,000. Here are pictures of the straw bale house being built with details of its design.

You will find straw bale homes all over the world. It is a suitable design for hot and cold and wet and dry climates. Take a look at some on the Natural Homes Map.

Some more straw bale homes...

   
         
   
 

Canada

 

Dry Stone

This is a traditional (almost) Scottish dry stone home called a blackhouse however this one is in Canada. Here are some blackhouses in Scotland. The house was built using 126 tons of stone at Eric Landmanís farm near Grand Valley, ON. Notice steps are built into the wall leading up to the chimney and the green roof.

Stone is infinitely reusable and long lasting, Many stone homes in Europe were built from the homes and fortifications of earlier settlements. There are many such examples among the stone villages of Britain.

A collection of stone buildings...