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 lasts 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 from different climates using a selection of natural and recycled 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.








Hempcrete is a mixture of hemp and lime, a lightweight construction material that can be used for walls, insulation of roofs and floors and as part of timber-framed buildings. It provides good thermal and sound insulation. Hemp-based solid wall construction is breathable and is able to absorb and emit moisture, leading to much healthier buildings. This small house uses cast hempcrete around a timber stud frame. The hemp & lime casting-work was filmed during its construction. See the videos right...


Hempcrete Cottage by Bevan Architects






This igloo is in Canada, built in the traditional Inuit way by cutting blocks from a wind packed snow drift with a saw. This arctic environment can kill a person quickly, which is why two experienced Inuit can build an igloo in about 30 minutes. In a storm this skill can mean the difference between life and death.


Setting the last ice block in the roof





Mud and Stud

This is a late 17th century Mud and Stud cottage in the beautiful Lincolnshire Wolds of England. You can find Mud and Stud homes in Jamestown, Virginia, USA built there by British colonists. Mud and stud is similar to 'wattle and daub' but the mud (clay, sand and straw) is supported by vertical riven [riven: split with the grain] lathes nailed to horizontal rails between the posts of an elm frame.


Lime plastered attic bedroom






Matmâta and other desert settlements in Tunisia have wonderful underground homes built to avoid the intense heat and strong desert winds. The homes are made by digging a large pit some 7m (23ft) deep and 10m (33ft)  wide and then, around the sides of the pit, tunnelling in a few meters before cutting artificial caves. Matmâta, like only a handful of similar towns across Tunisia, is situated on a shelf of sandstone that is soft enough to excavate with hand tools, but sturdy enough to provide homes for centuries.





This is a choom in the frozen marshlands of the Yamal Peninsula in northwest Siberia, Russia. The choom, home to the nomadic Nenet, uses reindeer hides wrapped around wooden poles. During periods of migration chooms are moved every other day. Choom sites are chosen based on pasture and ground quality with a water source nearby. After checking the vegetation on a choom site the Brigadier pushes his reindeer driving stick, called a khorei, into the ground where he wants the centre of the choom to be.






These rattan thatched homes are the vernacular architecture of Wae Rebo Village on Flores island in Indonesia. Rattan is a climbing palm that grows in the tropical and subtropical regions of Asia and Africa, extending as far north as Nepal and Bhutan, and as far south as Papua New Guinea. They only grow in tropical forests. There are approximately 650 species of rattans.


Aga Khan Development Network





Oak Frame

This beautiful home in Devon, England called Seagull House, was traditionally framed in oak. It was converted from a barn in 1987 and designed by architect Roderick James who founded Carpenter Oak where you can see more pictures of the oak framed house. The traditionally framed building like this can last for 500+ years or more. Peak acorn production for an oak tree is around 80  to 120 years. It takes about 150 years before an oak tree is ready to use in construction.




Rice and Bamboo

This 40m2 bamboo and rice straw shelter is in Ramsar, Iran. It is made from 70 young and still flexible bamboo poles, arranged along two semicircular segments at the base. Bundles of rice straw were used to thatch the roof. Rice straw swells in wet weather keeping the rain out and the inside dry. Conversely when itís sunny and hot, the dry straw lets air flow in and out keeping inside comfortably cool. You can find out more about the structural design at Architecture in Development (AID).





This is a 3m diameter earthbag dome in Limulunga, Zambia on the shore of a lake near Mongu. It was built with a team of 25 people led by Paluina of Earth Hands and Houses. The house, which took two weeks to build, is made from earthbags, roundwood and grass thatch. Building this way the team built a home at about a 1/4 of the price of a conventional concrete block structure. The eco-lodge is in one of 23 villages around the lake where the community is trying to halt the progress of cement structures.