Natural Building Workshop

Mastatal, Costa Rica

Climatic Analysis, Solar Passive Design, Permaculture, Community Design, Regenerative Design

They say if we don’t learn from history, then we are doomed to repeat it. Well, Natural Building is one part of history that we are very much in favor of repeating, reintegrating and remembering. It is an ancient knowledge that stems from understanding and interacting with our surroundings, our environment, our climate and our cultural history. In our movement towards globalization and standardization we have forgotten these invaluable lessons in favor of mechanically cooled boxes. Re-learning how to build with bio-regionally appropriate materials and techniques enables us to create buildings that make sense within their context, have a much lower embedded energy from construction and much lower operational energy to maintain the building at a comfortable temperature. Natural building is all about LOW TECH, HIGH IQ solutions to solve modern problems using ancient logic.

The wall construction systems we learned about were wattle + daub and adobe bricks as well as earthen floors and natural lime and clay plasters. These are the techniques that are appropriate to our tropical climate here in Costa Rica, but there are many techniques such as Cob, Strawbale, Rammed Earth and Hempcrete just to name a few. The basis for all natural building is the same basic formula in different ratios, binder (clay, lime), aggregate (sand, rocks), usually some type of fiber and water. The binder keeps everything together while the aggregate gives compressive strength and the fiber gives tensile strength.

By definition everything is “Natural” building as nothing can really come from outside the realms of nature. What makes something a natural building or not is largely dependent on the amount of processing applied to that material and the transportation distance of that material. Large amounts of processing result in higher embodied energy, the inclusion of chemicals and toxins as well as reducing the ease by which that material can break down and return to the earth. Transportation is directly linked to energy  consumption through transportation of materials nationally and even internationally. 

The oldest Wattle & Daub buildings are up to 700 years old while the oldest Adobe buildings are over 5000 years old. We believe that the past is the future! If you are to  incorporate Natural Building into your project, we would love to offer our expertise.