Join us for a unique free, natural and sustainable learning opportunity

We recently embarked on our first Sustainable Building Course with Earth and Tyres in collaboration with international NGO rockstars Long Way Home. You may have been eager to join in, but due to time or financial constraints had to sit it out? The sustainable building course ends on Friday 19 May, but we still have a lot to do to complete the building. That’s where your opportunity comes in…
Volunteers on site

Natural building course alumni, Bennett and Monre, volunteering on the Delft ECD

Since 2010, I have been dedicated to training people interested in natural and sustainable building. The only common denominator among all the participants was their eagerness to live a life more in harmony with nature and the natural environment.

Since those early days I have seen a steady increase in the number of people interested in what was initially considered an alternative lifestyle. And as the planet seems to be going a little bit more haywire with every passing season, be it electoral or climatic, more and more people are starting a journey towards greater independence and freedom. For many people this means ensuring their primary needs, food, shelter and water are taken care of in one way or another. Often the first step on this journey is building their own dwelling, a deeply satisfying and empowering experience.

Recently, I’ve been engaged with the City of Cape Town and introducing natural and alternative building materials to the public built environment. The first project was the Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre in Delft. Delft, is one of the poorer suburbs in Cape Town with some staggering violent crime statistics. The city is playing the long game as the first 1000 days of a person’s life plays a vital role in the rest of their lives. Early intervention and development is essential. That is why I’m excited about the subtle potential of the environmentally friendly building, exposing children from a young age to the creative potential of earth and other alternative construction materials. And let’s face it, it’s a beautiful and healthy environment that any child will be lucky to grow up in.

The storytelling tree at the Delft ECD.

The storytelling tree at the Delft ECD.

But, I wanted to take it a step further and provide a beautiful and natural training space for ECD carers to train in too. We’re presenting it in collaboration with international NGO Long Way Home – tyre building experts and all-round inspiring humans doing amazing things in rural Guatemala. With support from The Sophia Foundation and buy-in from the City we embarked on this journey at the end of April with our very first Sustainable Building Course with Earth and Tyres. You may have been eager to join in, but due to time or financial constraints had to sit it out?

We are busy building a passive solar, earth sheltered building out of tyres, cob, compressed earth bricks, ecobricks and glass bottles at the Delft Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre. But, the sustainable building course ends on Friday 19 May and we still have a lot to do to complete the building (check out our progress). The anticipated date of completion is the end of June. That’s where your opportunity comes in!

We’re sending out a call for volunteers to participate and assist in the completion of the build. It is impossible for us to say what will happen on which dates, but overall the following activities will be taking place from now until the end of June, and we hope you can join us:

  • Cob pack-out and plastering of tyre walls
  • Steel reinforced concrete ring beam installation
  • Bottle bricks in cob
  • Compressed earth brick floor
  • Roof installation
  • Lime plaster finishes
  • Paving
  • Earth berm installation
  • General tom-foolery

To participate in this unique opportunity you need to have completed one of my previous courses. Please email us your name and contact information as well as days that you are available to join us.

To find out more about the Delft ECD centre and what we’ve been up to you can read the article that appeared in Earthworks Magazine, or you can check out the albums on Facebook and Flickr. We’ve also created a series of shortfilms about the different materials that were used in the build, you can check them out here.

We hope you can join us on this journey.

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com

Guest post: Hybrid alternative and natural building blocks at the Delft ECD (Early Childhood Development Centre)

In Delft, an impoverished township on the outskirts of the Cape Flats, local government is changing its approach to building early childhood development centres with a pioneering project showcasing a hybrid of natural building methods and up-cycled waste materials.

By Mary Anne Constable

This post first appeared on Earthworks Magazine in February 2017. We are re-posting it here with the permission of  Young Africa Publishing and author Mary-Anne Constable. 

Peter McIntosh, founder of the Natural Building Collective was the project coordinator for the alternative materials (natural and recycled) portion of the Delft ECD build.

Delft ECD_Natural building collective

The new Delft ECD (Early Childhood Development Centre) represents the first time that government – in this case the City of Cape Town – has significantly integrated alternative and unconventional building methods for the construction of a public building.

The considered design of the Delft ECD building is an example that will make an essential contribution to the development of South Africa’s youngest residents. The alternative building materials, which include both natural methods (compressed earth bricks and cob) and recycled waste materials (ecobricks, tyres, glass bottles), deviate from conventional brick and concrete, while creating a healthy environment.  Continue reading

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com

Announcing natural building course dates for 2017

Are you on the track with your sustainability goals? Attend our natural building course this year and learn some essential practical skills to help you on your way to living the off-grid dream.

We are thrilled to announce that both courses will be held at Jakkalskloof bio-dynamic training farm in Swellendam this year.

Dates for 2017:

  • 19 – 25 March: Natural building course: materials and techniques (7 category 1 SACAP credits) ~ Jakkalskloof farm
  •  14 October: Natural building course: materials and techniques (7 category 1 SACAP credits) ~ Jakkalskloof farm

For more information please visit our course page or send us an email at naturalbuildingcollective@gmail.com to book your spot!

natural-building-course_poster_03_2017

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com

Q&A with Paul Marais, award-winning architect specializing in rammed earth

We catch up with Paul Marais about his award-winning off grid, rammed earth house in Maun, Botswana.

First off, congratulations on winning the Afrisam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture + Innovation for Sustainable Product/Technology for your design of the rammed earth Otto cottage in Maun, Botswana. 

Thank you, I am very pleased for recognition of this off grid, rammed earth building , where I designed and built the house, energy & water systems and sewerage.

The award-winning rammed earth Otto cottage in Maun, Botswana. Designed and built by Paul Marais. Photo courtesy of Paul Marais.

The award-winning rammed earth Otto cottage in Maun, Botswana. Designed and built by Paul Marais. Photo courtesy of Paul Marais.

How did you first get involved in natural building?

I have been always interested in natural buildings and as a student studied natural building in Malawi and Zambia.  I have travelled a lot in remote Africa and have an interest in indigenous architecture which is both material and energy efficient.  Continue reading

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com

Q&A with Jill Hogan, a pioneer of natural building in South Africa

In the first of our series of Q&As with pioneers of natural and sustainable building in South Africa and beyond, we caught up with Jill Hogan in honour of Women’s day in South Africa. 

How did you first get involved in natural building? 

Jill Hogan at Cobbit's Cottage.

Jill Hogan at Cobbit’s Cottage.

In the early 90’s my life changed completely and I found my self alone. In wanting to be part of a community, I met Hurta Stuurman and did some work with her on her cob house at Hermanus/Stanford and knew that this is what I wanted to do. It combined my concept of Permaculture with creating an organic home for myself, while allowing me to use my knowledge of earth/clay.

Tell us about your journey.

In the 70’s I worked for a nursery. I had a pot plant business, but was exposed to organic veggie gardening and became more and  more interested. At the same time, I started doing pottery and assisted in teach children with learning disabilities now known as ADHD, and so was exposed to lateral thinking.

In the 80’s I went back to “school” and did a fine arts majoring in ceramics.

In 1992 I was introduced to Permaculture and did the design course with John Wilson from Fambidanzia, at Tlholego in Rustenberg, and I developed a true passion for sustainable development.

Someone was setting up an Eco Village in McGregor and I was drawn to become one of the original developers. But personality clashes among the original six members caused the project to collapse, sending me into McGregor itself where I bought a piece of land in the town. Continue reading

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com

Guest post: Rammed earth on the rise

Rammed earth construction in South Africa has generally been stigmatised as a substandard and primitive building construction method reserved ‘for the poor’. Yet it is now gaining popularity for community social projects, as well as among wealthier clients.

By Mary Anne Constable

This post first appeared on Earthworks Magazine in April 2016. We are re-posting it here with the permission of  Young Africa Publishing and author Mary-Anne Constable.

Rammed earth in Botswana

House Freeman is cool in the hot Botswana desert thanks to an evaporative cooling system, which draws air over solar powered sprinklers, a living roof and thick, thermally efficient walls. The shuttering was reused in, for example, the roof, so nothing was wasted.

Of more than twenty different types of earth construction techniques, rammed earth has been lauded for its durability, sophisticated environmental performance and striking earthen beauty.

Rammed earth construction in South Africa has generally been stigmatised as a substandard and primitive building construction method reserved ‘for the poor’. Yet it is now gaining popularity for community social projects, as well as among wealthier clients. Although a building standard is yet to be formalised in South Africa, the rammed earth industry is established in many African countries, Europe, United States and Australia. This means plenty of expertise and established international building standards already exist and this construction method is now far removed from its primitive roots.

Continue reading

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com

Natural building course October 2016, Swellendam

Take the first steps to a sustainable future by attending our second and final natural building course for 2016. You’ll learn hands-on practical skills and be empowered to be successful and make rational choices whatever the given situation.

We are happy to announce the completion of another successful course at Wild Spirit Backpacker’s Lodge in April, 2016. The second CPD accredited natural building course will be held at Jakkalskloof farm, in Swellendam. Jakkalskloof is an organic mixed-use farm which also provides training in Biodynamic agriculture.

 

Natural Building Collective_Natural building course October 2016 Swellendam

For more information about these CPD accredited natural building courses simply drop us an email at: naturalbuildingcollective@gmail.com

To see what previous participants had to say, visit the Testimonials page; or visit the gallery for photos from our previous courses.

 

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com

Transition Ethics: The Art of Compromise

Do we as ethical natural builders have a right to deny someone a home simply based on the argument of its purity? Surely it’s about having the humility to acknowledge that sustainability is about economy and social justice as much as it is about ecology. Scott Gallant from Rancho Mastatal in Costa Rica writes that the transition ethic says that no one is going from zero to sustainable overnight. Making the transition takes time and, we have to meet people where they are at.

This post first appeared on Numundo on 16 February 2016. We are re-posting it here with the permission of  Shayna Gladstone and author Scott Gallant.

To introduce the post, we’d like to share with you why we were so excited to read Scott’s post. Written by Scott Gallant from Rancho Mastatal Sustainability Education Center in Costa Rica, the post is based on his experience teaching the three permaculture ethics during the center’s Permaculture Design Courses, and the realization that a fourth ethic is required in order to facilitate a conversation about compromise.  They filled the gap with the Transition Ethic. Scott quotes Jessi Bloom and Dave Boehnlein, authors of Practical Permaculture, who acknowledge that “the transition ethic says that no one is going from zero to sustainable overnight. Making the transition takes time.” He goes on to say that “We have to meet people where they are at.  We must understand their cultural context.” Continue reading

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com

From the ground up ~ approaches to building a foundation for your natural building

When building with earth your foundation needs to be well considered as the integrity of your building rests here. Decisions you make about your foundation depend on the materials you have available, the type of ground you have to build on and what carbon footprint you want to leave. The goal should be to create foundations that are hard enough, move uniformly and resist cracking for the walls above it.

Foundations for conventional building have, to a large extent, a one size fits all approach regardless of the type of ground you are building on i.e. a concrete and steel foundation that works equally well on all types of earth and varies only slightly in its design. It requires little thought and has been proven to be effective. The cement in concrete provides the compressive strength, and the steel tensile strength to resist cracking. It does however come at a cost to both your pocket and the environment.

When building with earth your foundation needs to be well considered as the integrity of your building rests here. Decisions you make about your foundation depend on the materials you have available, the type of ground you have to build on and what carbon footprint you want to leave. The goal should be to create foundations that are hard enough, move uniformly and resist cracking for the walls above it. Foundations will always have a higher Mpa value than the walls, however it does not need to be excessive. A 4 Mpa foundation is sufficient for a 1.6 Mpa mud-brick wall, which most types of foundations are suitable for. Furthermore, if after levelling the site the undisturbed earth is hard enough, foundations may well be unnecessary.

There are several strategies for foundations depending on the type of ground that you are building on. In this blog post, I discuss the four types of ground, (1) uniformly hard, (2) uniformly soft, (3) hard and soft, and (4) clay, their challenges and several strategies you may incorporate into your design. The discussion is quite technical in some areas so I recommend that you read my three-part series on understanding earth first. Continue reading

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com

AfriSam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture + Innovation 2015/2016

Online entries for the 2015/2016 AfriSam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture + Innovation are now open and feature two new award categories.

Alongside the two mainstays, Sustainable Architecture and Research in Sustainability, there are now two additional categories for Sustainable Products and Technology and Sustainable Social Programmes – making the Award South Africa’s premier platform for recognising excellence in sustainable practice and innovation.

Increasingly climate and social challenges are necessitating new solutions to persistent developmental challenges. The world needs visionaries that can imagine new answers and design new systems. This bi-annual Award recognises contributions that bring sustainable innovation to human living environments through an integrated approach to communities, planning, design, architecture, building practice, natural systems and technology.

Go to their webpage to find more detailed information on each of the categories, as well as the judging panel and closing dates, and to view past submissions and awarded projects. They have also created a seamless and accessible online entry platform should you have your own project, or be involved in one, that you believe qualifies for entry.

If you have any queries about the 2015/2016 AfriSam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture + Innovation, please email: briefing@sustainabledesign.co.za

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com