Building a natural home is a big project, but one well worth the time and effort.
It’s a matter of using the right materials, tools, techniques and technologies to make a house that fits amongst its surroundings yet still stands out.
There are lots of options to choose from — stone, timber, bamboo — even straw. In order to mirror the surroundings, of course, most natural sourced homes use local products; rocks from nearby quarries, that sort of thing. Recycled and salvaged materials are also favored where possible.
The focus is on durability and quality.
The type of materials dictate the construction process. Luckily enough, each type typically works hand in hand with building techniques. Timber, for example, requires a system of bents and joists. Stone is carefully placed in a method call dry stacking. The stones fit together perfectly to form their own supports. Many craftsman and artisans have spent years learning the skills they need to build using these methods and they make beautiful finished projects.
A surprising amount of other structural decisions are also involved. Windows and skylights, when placed correctly, optimize energy efficiency, in a method called day lighting. For example, north and south exposures will be maximized and east to west, minimized; it all ads up.
The benefits of a naturally built home go beyond aesthetes or cost savings. Natural materials mean better air quality and an overall healthier living environment.
Of course, not everything in modern home can be naturally sourced. Solar power and geothermal heating and cooling systems help further minimize the footprint. While the initial up front cost may be higher than traditional technology, the benefits are numerous — cost savings, lessened environmental impact, resource conservation.
Water collection and treatment technologies are becoming more and more popular and may be a good fit for even the most modest, naturally built residential home. There are lots of choices on the market from a simple rain barrel to complex grey water systems.
While natural home building is experiencing a resurgence in popularity, it’s hardly a new concept. It has deep roots. Architect, Frank Lloyd Wright was one of its earlier champions and his many projects were inspired by the landscape around them.
Wright built his career around the merits of natural building. He selected materials carefully, using them to connect the structure with the rocks, trees, ground and even the sky. His homes and buildings blend with their backgrounds exactly the way a naturally resourced property should.
Like his buildings, the Frank Lloyd Foundation lives on today and trains the next generation of architects in his style, using his theories and principles. Many of his properties have been turned into museums and are open for tours, and his website has lots of additional information: www.franklloydwright.org.
All in all, a naturally built residential home will work with, not against, the climate, ecology and landscape of the area in which it’s built. They are carefully planned and put together, and well built. A natural fit, some would say.
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