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20 October 26 October 2024

Natural Building Collective

We use sustainable building principles to connect, create, empower and educate.


Our vision is to nurture the creation of a more sustainable built environment. The Natural Building Collective is a collaborative project dedicated to educating individuals and organizations about sustainable building’s potential to stimulate the senses, connect people to their environment and awaken our inherent creative potential. We gather knowledge from our peers, we share our experience with the industry, and we honour the dynamic relationship between the building and individual with sustainable building solutions that work.

Founder, Peter McIntosh is one of a handful of natural builders whose experience includes several natural materials and techniques giving him the unique ability to make decisions based on what is the most appropriate for the given site with regard to available materials, the triple bottom-line of sustainability, client needs and climate. Realizing that sustainability is about economy and social justice as much as it is about ecology Peter has been exploring the value of alternative building materials including, tyres and eco-bricks (plastic bottles stuffed with plastic waste) since 2014.

A great proportion of the South African population live in township shacks built out of metal sheets and cardboard. The very thing that makes natural building accessible and potentially more affordable than conventional building is also what may make it not so – locally sourced materials and easily learned skills and techniques. Some of these alternative/innovative materials are already being incorporated into shacks, but with the thermal performance of mud a wealth of opportunities open up



When you are ready to start planning your project, we will gladly meet with you to discuss your ideas and advise on the most appropriate building materials. Once appointed to the project, our role will include design development, municipal submission and technical documentation:

  • Receiving and appraising the brief, advising on planning and zoning limitations, advising on the need for the appointment of other consultants
  • Preparing a design concept 
  • Developing the design concept in detail, advising on construction materials and methods
  • Completing and submitting the municipal application 
  • Preparing technical documents and assisting the construction project manager and building contractor with construction details and administration 
  • Preparing as-built drawings as required and assisting with the preparation of a close-out file and the documentation required for the occupation certificate

Construction Project Manager

As the construction project manager, we manage the construction phase of the project on site by:

  • Collaborating with the engineer, architect, building contractor and other workers on the project
  • Identifying subcontractors and delegating responsibilities
  • Complying with building regulations as well as other legal requirements
  • Reporting project progress and the budget to you 
  • Preparing a basic budget, cost estimates and work timetables

Building Contractor 

Together with the Natural Building Collective team, we are affiliated with a number of skilled building contractors who can build your natural and alternative building project for you. Their responsibilities will include:

  • Taking responsibility for the overall administration of the construction project and managing the day-to-day activities of the site operation
  • Coordinating and supervising the work of subcontractors, trade professionals and other workers involved in the project 
  • Ensuring quality standards are met and all work is done safely and according to specifications
  • Overseeing the ordering and delivery of materials and supplies and managing the staff on site


We offer on-site training and capacity building in sustainable building materials, including cob, adobe brick, rammed earth, straw bale, tyres, sandbags and recycled materials amongst others. 

We facilitate CPD-accredited natural building courses in South Africa for professionals, students and owner-builders. The Natural Building course is designed around the principles of understanding earth, how it works and does not work together. We give you an understanding of a range of techniques and materials, so that you are able to make the most appropriate decisions regarding materials and or sustainability once you are ready to begin your project. 


Peter McIntosh

Peter McIntosh started building with natural materials in 1999 when he built his own earth-sheltered, straw-bale house. Realising his passion Peter apprenticed himself to Etienne Bruwer, architect and father of green building in South Africa, and worked around South Africa, with many different natural building materials and techniques. In 2004 he moved his focus to Cape Town and ran a natural building company there for six years.

In 2010, Peter shifted his focus to training, mentoring and building the profile of natural and sustainable building in southern Africa. To this end he facilitates CPD accredited natural building courses and provides an online platform for people involved and interested in natural building, including architects, owner-builders, educators and social development practitioners. He continues to provide consultation and project management services to private, public and development sectors.

Peter’s home life also reflects his belief in the possibilities of living sustainably. His off-the-grid straw bale mudbrick earth-sheltered house is situated in the middle of a permaculture community, growing as much of his food as possible in a semi-arid environment.

Emma McGregor

Emma started her career in natural building at the tender age of five, building her first structure out of branches and clay in a pine forest that bordered her parents house in Somerset West.  After graduating with an M.Arch from the University of Cape Town in 2009, she felt drawn to contribute to the built environment by focusing on buildings that serve and uplift the community. Emma went into private practice in 2021, which allowed her to collaborate with the Natural Building Collective in exploring the dynamic world of alternative and recycled building materials, with the intention to demonstrate that it is possible for the building industry to be less destructive in its relationship with the planet. 

Her previous work experience includes a primary school, a high school and two School of Skills workshops for the Western Cape Education Department, as well as a range of residential, heritage and commercial projects in and around Cape Town and the Western Cape.

By participating in the design development and documentation of the new building for the Ulwazi Educare Early Childhood Development Centre (built from tyres, eco bricks and recycled film set waste), Emma was exposed to a new paradigm of design thinking, one that highlights the interplay between design integrity and budget, as well as the opportunities and limitations of various alternative building techniques and the skills available in the community to bring the projects to life. 

Emma is particularly interested in familiarising municipal building control departments with as many alternative building technology examples as possible, aiming to demystify the process and illuminating the path for other building industry professionals to follow.  

Emma and her husband Kayo live in the Pearl-of-the-Overberg, Villiersdorp. When not at her desk, Emma enjoys growing exotic culinary mushrooms and tries to keep the garden alive.