Many feet make light work

Many feet make light work

Earthen Built by Kata Polano

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Mar 24, 2010

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

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