What Is Natural Building?
Natural building is one of the oldest ways of building. It was at one point the only way of building. Derived from the observation of nature and wildlife, we learned how to shelter ourselves by using natural materials found on the land. Some of the oldest buildings known to man are made from natural materials. Only in the last 200 years has natural building taken a back seat to what we now know as conventional building. Since the standardization of building materials in the early nineteenth century, natural building has often been viewed as substandard.
Conventional building and natural building are fundamentally different. Conventional construction primarily uses manufactured building materials. Conversely, in natural building the majority of building materials are found on the land or nearby. Natural building materials include stone, earth, clay, sand, straw, wood, and water. The purchasing of manufactured products is limited. Windows, doors, and fixtures are mostly salvaged. Structural materials and hardware, such as nails, screws, bolts, straps, and concrete are purchased new and of the highest quality.
The majority of the materials used in conventional building are standardized products that are not found on the property or nearby. Today, there is a growing awareness of the impact our building methods have on the earth. The green building industry is trying to offer a healthier alternative to conventional building. Unfortunately, building with “green” materials can be cost prohibitive and often misses the point by shipping materials long distances. The green movement has introduced many wonderful products to the homeowner that in fact helps decrease the destruction of the earth’s natural resources, but still stops short compared to natural building.
Natural building is easy in concept. Use what is available on the land or nearby. Design the home to harness the sun’s heat in the winter and provide protection from the sun in the summer. Most importantly, build the home to be your temple, in balance with nature, connected to the earth, and to house your inner sprit. The energy derived from building naturally with intention, cannot be put into words, it can only be experienced. Building with natural materials in this way creates a shelter that is healing to the mind, the body, and the spirit.
The economic benefit of natural building is perhaps the most impressive. In Nevada County, CA the average price of new construction is approximately $180 dollars per square foot. If a natural building was constructed by a homeowner using the Natural Living School, the cost would be roughly $60 per square foot. There are other ways to reduce the cost of construction, like building smaller more efficient homes, and using recycled and salvaged materials.
Natural building is an affordable way of building that promotes using locally sourced building materials, designed to provide comfort during all seasons, and to connect the homeowners to nature and to spirit. Natural Building is an important part of natural living.