Many feet make light work

Many feet make light work

Earthen Built by Kata Polano

Welcome to the portfolio for Earthen Built.
Follow this link to go to the main website for Earthen Built.

Dec 18, 2010

SLAM 2010 ~ progress report

Early morning at SLAM. All ready for the cob to go on!
We were prepared for rain, and blessed with sunshine on the day of the SLAM event! Hoping to get the bench built in one day, we were sure to start early and stomp out as much cob as we could. Just as we were unfurling our mixing tarps a group from two of the local highschools showed up, ready to lend both hands and feet to the flow. Well, almost ready. First there was a quick trip back home to change their clothes for some that they were more readily prepared to get covered in mud. Then the mixing began!

These kids stomped, rolled, jumped, mixed, and made cob like nothing before. We were soon coming dangerously close the the end of our clay supply. A quick run back to the stockpile at O.U.R. Ecovillage ensured that things kept rolling. What first seemed to be a big goal for one day turned into a bench very quickly. By 2:00, when the festival got underway, people were able to come by and see a clear bench taking shape.

We were lucky to have Sol Crawford on the lead building team. Sol had spent many hours and days working on the original design for the community space, and there was nothing like having him there to be involved with its evolution in real time. He had some great ideas and really carried a lot of the project through.

Community bench at the end of the festival.
Book shelves were incorporated, as well as tunnels for kids to enjoy. Arm rests, plenty of bench space, and places to rest a mug were all made welcome. We really wanted to make this space as functional as possible for all.

Some of the greatest moments in public building events are when the public actually gets involved. Watching people go from spectator to participant is so rewarding, and such a big part to why we do this.
SLAM was definitely not short of people who started out scratching their heads and ended up hosing themselves off. Sometimes it starts with someone watching from a distance, wondering what it is that we are up to. Then they come a little closer and actually ask a few questions. We place cob in their hands, and they still don't quite know what to do with it. They watch and ask a bit more. Then, all of a sudden there is another set of hands pushing and poking more cob onto the structure. Then it becomes hard for them to walk away, and we have accomplished one of the goals we set out to achieve. Those who get involved become aware of something innate within themselves, something that makes them feel alive and empowered. Building with the Earth is something that each and every one of us shares within our heritage. People walk away with a new sense of pride, and a sense of shared accomplishment and ownership of something they will get to enjoy for a long time to come. We have truly given back to the people when we give them skills and experience.

One neighbour in particular, Gerry, became so moved by the project that he jumped in to volunteer some of his own rustic woodworking talent. Gerry's work can be seen framing in the openings and giving the bench a beautiful flowing line. He has also volunteered to donate and help construct a round-pole post and beam structure for the roof.

SLAM was intended to bring the community of Shawnigan Lake out of their homes and together in the neighbourhood. Along with the bench building, there was music, food, dancing, and plenty of mingling. Neighbours met and friendships grew. People loved it and had a great time! We hope that people will use the space to both gather socially and to wait for the bus. I also hope to see more of you out there next year when the community does it again! Again, thanks to all who participated and made this come together.

~Stay tuned for more updates as the roof goes up and the plaster goes on.

Sep 2, 2010

SLAM 2010 ~ Shawnigan Lake Arts & Munticultural Placemaking Event

S.L.A.M. Community Corner Creation
~Shawnigan Lake Arts & Multicultural Placemeaking Event~

Greetings Cowichan Valley residents and neighbours, here is a call for City Repair Placemaking participation! On the 18th & 19th of Sept. we will be installing an Earthen Built bench in Shawnigan Lake Village. Your support and involvement is what will make this event a real community success! We have already begun the first stages of this project, and assistance during the days leading up to the event is welcome.

Refreshing Colour ~ Santa Barbara, CA

Round window into the kitchenette

There sat a basement apartment. But not just any basement apartment. This place had pizazz, character, and eccentricity! It even came into being under a not so usual way.

Apr 9, 2010

Fireproofing a home

After a long, beautiful summer on Vancouver Island, a place where wildfires are not a common threat to homeowners, I headed south along the coast into California. There this threat is one that has become the hot topic of concern for many a homeowner.

Apr 5, 2010

Orella Ranch - 2009

At the start of the colloquium at Orella Ranch we were all faced with an empty stick framed set of restrooms. Over the week it was transformed into a building consisting of just as many natural building techniques as there are stalls. Walls went up, a privacy fence, as well as the roof.

2008 Natural Building Colloquium

After a great season of building on Vancouver Island, I delightfully found myself heading south to California in October. My destination was the 2008 West Coast Natural Building Colloquium.

More Art Studio @ OUR Ecovillage 2008

The Art Studio was the main project that we worked on during the 2008 Natural Building Skillbuilders program at OUR Ecovillage.

Mar 29, 2010

OUR Ecovillage ~summer of 2008

Nestled in the quiet community of Shawnigan Lake on BC's Vancouver Island is where OUR Ecovillage can be found. Standing for One United Resource, this place was abundant in natural resources that made this community sparkle and shine.

Permaculture Design Course 2008

It was July 2008 on Vancouver Island. We were half way through the intensive six month season of natural building that I was up to my knees in, quite literally. It was time for a break from the building to stretch out our arms and embrace the empowering, immense world of Permaculture. This was a two week intensive, held at O.U.R. Ecovillage, that set out to show us how different systems interact together to become one, unifying, whole system.

Mar 24, 2010

Art Studio

Here sits the Art Studio when I was first introduced to it in April of 2008. This would be my stomping ground, quite literally, for the next six months as I learned the art of natural building at O.U.R.(One Untied Resource) Ecovillage.

OUR Love Nest - Summer, 2008

Between the two greenhouses is where the Love Nest makes it's home.

Natural Building

Welcome everyone to my new blog!

To get everyone acquainted with what I do, this first post will serve as an introduction to Natural Building, or what I like to call it: “Earthen Building”

Earthen building is building from “natural” materials that come from the Earth. These most often consist of: clay, sand, straw, stone, bamboo, and wood. A natural builder will often utilize reclaimed, salvaged, or re-purposed materials as well. These will include plywood, urbanite (chunks of concrete from the removal of a sidewalk or driveway, etc.) carpet (for living roofs) glass, bottles, tiles, and more. Using these materials, we aim to have a lower impact on the environment, build sustainably, bring the creation of structures back into the hands of everyone, and have fun doing so!

There are many different forms that Earthen building takes on. Some of them you may already be familiar with or have tried yourself even. Others may be something that you are curious about, and others yet may be totally new to you. Whatever your knowledge of Earthen building, I am sure you will fall in love with the feeling of these structures.
The following list does not include everything that can be done with earthen materials. There is always so much more we can do with what the Earth gives us. I have not included living roofs for one, though somewhere along the line there may be a post or two with living roofs.

Some Common Earthen Building Techniques
Perhaps the most well known as it has a long history worldwide. Adobe uses clay, sand, and sometimes straw to form bricks that are dried out in the sun. These adobes are then assembled like a brick house, using another mix of clay and sand as mortar. There are lots of adobe structures that don’t get an earthen plaster over top, allowing the beauty of the bricks to be seen.
Becoming more well known as a building material, cob is very similar to adobe in that it is also made from clay, sand, and straw. Cob is often referred to as monolithic adobe. Instead of making bricks from the mix, one builds much like a sand castle, one clump on top the other.
Straw Bale:
More and more widespread as it is permitted to build with in many states. Almost as simple as just stacking straw bales one on top of the other and covering with mud!
Clay Wattle:
Much like wattle and daub, yet different. This method takes bunches of straw all running lengthwise, covers it in thick clay goo, and weaves it between vertical poles. It is one of the most beautiful techniques to watch in all its stages of construction.
Light Clay Straw:
A great method for infill. This is one of my favourites to do.  It gives a nice insulation value (R-value) while allowing for thinner walls than straw bales. It takes the place of regular insulators within a stick framed structure. It is fast and relatively easy, once the framing is up! Just add a little bit of liquid clay to dry straw and fill in the walls.
Slip n’ Chip:
Similar to light clay straw, except use wood chips instead of straw. This is great for interior walls, giving a good sounds barrier, yet less of an insulating factor.
Earth Bag:
This is another of my favourites, especially for foundations. We often use misprinted grain bags, like that sand bags you see for flood control, and fill them with dirt. The kind of dirt used will depend on the application. The bags, or tubes, are then stacked on top of each other until the desired height. A lot of domes are built using earth bags or tubes.
Some of you will probably have at least seen pictures of this method. Logs are used along with a cob mixture to build with. The ends of the logs are brought to the face of the wall and left exposed, being mortared together with the cob.
I love to work with stone! I love it for foundations, and I love to use it for detailing. I have used it similarly to how one may use cordwood and loved the results.
Actually not a wood, but a grass. Bamboo is very versatile and can be used in so many ways in building. Too many to list here. There will be some posts on some beautiful things done with bamboo, as well as some links to friends’ sites who are the real masters of this material!
I hope you all enjoy my blog, learn something along the way, and receive inspiration to do something that calls to you.
Check back often to see what new things I have been up to, and find out when and where I will be doing a workshop.
Thanks everyone!!
Keep it Beautiful