According to Michael Smith of NetworkEarth.org, natural building “places the highest value on social and environmental sustainability.” In short, natural buildings and building systems are an alternative―though eco-friendly―approach to new construction, such as building a new home. If you’re looking for eco-friendly alternatives, then a natural building might be the option for you; though they are certainly not for everyone.
History of Natural Building
Natural building is likely to be the oldest style of building construction. It has been around for thousands upon thousands of years, from when Native Americans built their adobe homes dating back to the first people to live in caves.
What is a Natural Building?
The specifics of natural building varies from person to person, as different people, groups or organizations all have their own definition of what ‘natural building’ is. The term ‘natural building’ can encompass several different styles of buildings. For example, adobe style buildings―buildings which are built from clay or sand mixed with straw or another type of fiber―are considered to be a natural building system.
Others feel that a natural building system would involve only using materials that are locally produced or found within 100 miles of the construction site. Others still feel that this is too broad and that a natural building only earns the title ‘natural building’ if all of the materials are locally produced and sustainable.
As expected, there are also individuals who feel that natural building encompasses many different aspects such as locally grown timber for construction combined with recycled or reused products such as tires, recycled glass or even junk from their local dump or junkyard.
Whatever the chosen method is, natural building should focus around the region in which the building is being constructed. For example, an adobe home would not be a realistic choice for potential homeowners who reside in northern Michigan. The adobe would not survive the harsh winter, period. However, it would be an ideal option for those who live in a sunny and dry climate, such as Arizona.
Materials to Avoid
Generally considered, natural building systems shun the use of imported products but also toxic chemicals or items produced with the use of chemicals or non-renewable resources. In short, any product that has a negative impact on the earth should be avoided when practicing a natural building method.
Commonly used construction materials that should be avoided in natural building include PVC, portland cement mixes, and paints that produce VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
NetworkEarth.Org: The Case for Natural Building
Natural Building Network: Approved Materials List