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The Natural House
Northern Light

The concept of "The Natural House" is controversial, with thoughtful, well meaning people holding widely differing opinions. As the physics, metaphysics and culture of housing is complex, with many subtle design compromises required, this information is presented as a starting place, to generate interest and discussion.

A great site with a high quality introduction to natural building techniques is www.zianet.com, the Black Range people and Catherine Wanik. The primary source for straw bale information of course, is The Last Straw.

If you run a search on natural housing at the top of this page, you will find a huge amount of material, (click on architecture to reduce the amount). Clearly, natural housing means different things to different people. Two extremes may be a cave found in nature, on one hand, pretty natural, and typical western housing, fairly unnatural. The cave was created by some natural process, water erosion maybe, all materials have been in place for millions of years (or whatever), you can move into and live in it with relatively little disruption to the natural environment (many would argue against this). The house newly build in Kansas, say, may have all its materials trucked in from far away places, the materials all requiring major processing of some kind (negative effects on the environment), that may or may not add contaminates that have negative effects on your health.

If you roll a huge rock to block the entrance to the cave, or construct a crude door out of dead fall, the cave becomes less natural. If you use locally grown straw bales for insulation in your Kansas house, it becomes somewhat more natural. As a people, we are pretty good at the extremes, camping out in a tent on the one hand, and building the typical American house on the other, but not too good at finding that middle ground, a house that serves out needs well (in four seasons), is efficient to heat and cool, and is build primarily from local material found in nature, requiring little added processing. The cob house on a native rock foundation roofed with forest dead fall, locally milled planks, and glass recycled out of an auto junkyard comes close...but doesn't meet code.

Your natural house may use water base paint rather than oil, mine, may be an abandoned beaver dome. Let's keep working on that elusive middle ground...that can't be found in the woods or in huge catalogs featuring thousands of "natural products".

Please, if you have a perspective, comment or information that will add to this feeble introduction please send them along and I will include them here under your byline. Thanks, Robert.




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