Locating Your Natural Building Site

In natural building there are several things to consider when preparing for a new structure.  The most important is the location of the building.  In an ideal world, you would find a site that is south facing, with an amazing view, close to tall deciduous trees for shade in the summer but allow plenty of light in the winter, when they lose their leaves.  The site would have access to water, electricity, and plenty of raw material like clay, rock, trees, and sand if your lucky.

Clay from the site with a south facing view

Since we don’t live in an ideal world, its alway good to be willing to compromise.  In our case, we were lucky enough to have a south facing site.  There are deciduous trees on the site, but none near the actual building site to provide any shade during the hottest times of the day.  We were lucky enough, to have water and electrical access, not too far away.  The main water line was about 100 yards away, and the electrical was brought in several years ago, when the site hosted a mobile home, a TP, and a trailer.  Since then the trailer, TP, and mobile home have been removed.

Deciduous trees on the site

The land has plenty of raw material, like clay, rocks, and trees.  There was also sand left over from another project that we are able to use.  The clay actually has a good amount of sand in it, so we don’t have to use very much sand.  We did have to purchase straw, since we don’t yet grow it on the land.

The first thing we did, was locate the actual site for the main building that will be constructed in the future.  Once we all agreed on that site, we looked for the site for this year’s building project.  We were lucky enough to have a relatively flat spot in direct connection to the driveway for next year’s building project.  After several meetings, with all the people that would use the structure, we finally decided on a site.  Then we got together and blessed it.

Blessing the site for 2012 natural building project

Now that the site was located for this year’s project, we needed to prepare the site for building.   Stay tuned for this……..

A Student’s Perspective

I remember I arrived to school after a warm three-month summer off.  Not expecting anything extraordinary, I met Pablo and three students at the door of the cob building ready for a day of easy work.

I mean what should I have expected. I have never worked with mud and straw. And here were a bunch of people building something with it.

Kayla, one of the students that's helping build the Balecob classroom

I wasn’t very enthusiastic to work with a part of the earth that makes you look like a child playing in the mud, but I had an urge to see what the buzz was going around about natural building. So I put on my dirtiest clothes and jumped in with rocks in one hand and mud in the other.

After a couple hours, the buzz of natural building got me a little intoxicated—I was finally understanding the benefits of building with the earth. Yes, at first I was hesitant of even putting my hands on a cob house, but that was because I was afraid of getting my feet wet—literally and metaphorically.

Four of the the students plus Ken installing the windows

As I gained the courage to dive in, a fascination and curiosity arose in my mind— I had as many questions as there are stars in the sky—and the people I worked with left an answer for every one. As my relationship with the cob building deepened, so did my friendships with fellow students. While working we laughed, learned and made mistakes as a team; there was not a moment where I thought I had too much responsibility or not enough. We started as a team of students and ended as a team of students.

I didn’t think I would value any of the moments I had playing with cob, but I will say I was completely wrong. I learned more than I imagined. I learned about nature and the way to be a part of it rather than fight with it. I learned sustainable living.

Kamran and Sam, two of the students laying straw for the natural roof on the Balecob classroom.

I am glad that I was part of such a project. I am certain that future students will laugh and learn from natural living too.

Best wishes to all who are interested,

Bardia Behmard

Natural Living School Student

Fall 2011