Q&A with Anita Venter, from Start Living Green grassroots development in Bloemfontein

In honour of women’s day we asked Anita Venter a few questions about her grassroots development initiative using sustainable building methods in Bloemfontein. We have great admiration for the shack replacement initiative and what she has done to empower her change agents to become more self-sufficient and build community in her local context. We first got to know of the work Anita does when she invited Peter to participate in the Lebone Arts and cultural centre, a collaborative project with Los Tecnicos in 2014. We were also honoured to host her and six of her change agents on one of our natural building courses in 2015.

How did you first get involved in natural/sustainable building? Tell us about the journey.

Since the early 2000s I have done many research studies on housing from socio-economic and policy perspectives. 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

First natural building course of 2016

Announcing our first natural building course for 2016! Our natural building course is comprehensive and covers a range of materials and techniques based on Peter McIntosh’s professional and personal experience working with these approaches and from having lived off-grid since 1999.

The course will be taking place at Wild Spirit Backpacker’s in Nature’s valley from 17 – 23 April. You will leave with the theoretical understanding and practical grounding 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.

Drop us an email to book your place and avoid disappointment.

Poster 04_2016 sml

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com

The dynamic qualities of African Vernacular Architecture

In this guest post by Jon Sojkowski, he chronicles common misperceptions of African vernacular architecture and how it is being abandoned for the status that comes with living in conventional Western style buildings. He asks whether these modern materials are truly better than the vernacular options.

By Jon Sojkowski

African vernacular architecture is a subject that has had very little attention. The lack of documentation and available data on the internet has led to a severe misunderstanding of a type of architecture that a large percentage of the population in Africa living in on a daily basis. The lack of data has led to negative perceptions regarding African vernacular architecture, mainly that it is temporary, primitive or for the poor. Most people, when they think of a mud hut, get an image of a dilapidated mud structure which is quite small and has a thatch roof. Sadly, this perception exists both inside and outside the African continent, but it is simply not the truth. Continue reading

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com

Winning the AJ Writer’s Award

Don’t underestimate natural buildings… The Great Mosque of Djenne is built entirely out of mud and has been standing for a long time. It forms a part of Djenne heritage, but also daily life as a working mosque. And, when the whole community is part of sustaining and maintaining a mud building in this way, the building also contributes to social cohesion.
This is such an important lesson to remember when doing development work in southern Africa. When you eradicate mud buildings, it’s not just a building that you get rid of, but a social history and a chance for people to contribute to their community.

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com