I build natural dwellings, and natural features within dwellings with the intention of optimizing everyone’s health. As a builder, working with the basic elements of clay, sand, water, organic fibre and fire… I feel good at the end of the day. And I know that the ongoing dynamism of these materials also benefits the people living in the building. At the same time, I endeavour to build as soundly and economically as possible. There is no point in crafting something supremely beautiful if the client thereafter struggles to pay for it. As my buddies Anne and Gord Baird (ecosense.ca) put it: ‘If its not affordable, its not sustainable.’
Natural home design consultation
I have no intention of convincing you to build naturally. However, if you already know, without a doubt, that you want to do so, then I may be of service. Building a natural house is a big undertaking. The process has much in common with conventional building, but there are also significant differences. Anyone who takes on a natural building process without being aware of these differences, be they a seasonded G.C. or D.I.Y owner builder… is stepping into unknown territory and bound for trouble. Over my 20 years of natural building I have come to notice that nothing gets me into more trouble than thinking I know more than I know. And in that mis-informed state I am bound to make less than ideal decisions. I have seen these same issues play out over and over again in many another builder’s project; so, my intention as a consultant is to help you avoid making such costly mistakes.
To this end, I can provide information regarding:
- cost-benefit analysis of natural vs conventional building processes.
- pros and cons of various natural building techniques relative to bio region, micro-site requirements, and personal preference
- specific requirements of various natural building processes
- guidelines for code compliance and/or building envelope engineering
- Organic heating systems such as long-flywheel Annualized geo-solar, passive solar, wood-fired masonry and rocket mass heating and cooking.
- Permaculture design with emphasis on highly functional garden to table ergonomics.
For such consultation I charge between $40/hr and $60/hr depending upon my travel commitments and the extent to which I am sharing pre-developed information packages.
Natural finish plasters
Many people like the idea of living in a natural home, but for various reasons are not in a position to build one. Often they are already living in an existing conventional dwelling and have no desire to tear it down and start again.
One of the simplest ways to bring the feeling of natural elements into your home is to apply clay-based finish plasters to conventional (drywall) walls. For little more than the cost of a professional paint job, beautiful, breathable clay, sand and fibre plasters can be applied to your existing walls, either directly over unpainted drywall or over top of existing painted surfaces.
To gather more information about such plasters please refer to: americanclay.com. But please also realize that you do not have to purchase such a pricey product from so far away. I mix my own plasters from very old recipes. Most any colour and texture is possible.
Perhaps the single most valuable natural feature that can be added to any home is an earthen-bodied, wood-fired masonry heater. These heirloom heaters reestablish the (h)eart(h) of the home in that they are very relaxing (and thereby com-fort-ing) to be around. They usually cost more than metal box stoves, but they provide far greater comfort while using ½ the wood. So they are well worth the additional cost.
Originating many thousands of years ago in Asia, and showing up more recently in Europe (Roman times), masonry heaters are a tried and true way to cook food and warm our bodies. They are also still the most energy efficient heating device (next to long-flywheel passive solar) with the lowest embodied energy (carbon footprint) possible.
For more information about the heaters I build, see (LINK TO ‘A PIECE OF THE SUN’).
Rocket stoves and ovens
Wood-fired rocket stoves also date thru antiquity. Much like masonry heaters, they burn hot and fast to achieve optimized combustion efficiency. But they also include a ‘heat riser’ (vertical chimney in the combustion core) that sends a blast of heat upwards into a concentrated area. This is ideal for stove top cooking applications. Also they have a gradual fuel feed system that enables the moderation of cooking temperatures.