Dream House

Natural Building and Bioclimatic Architecture

Tao’s Center and the Cob team are pleased to invite you to an open talk on Natural Building and Bioclimatic Architecture on Saturday 16 April 2011, at 19.30 in Tao’s Center, Paros, Greece. The talk will prepare us for the 3-day workshop coming up in Tao’s in mid-June. The talk will be in Greek with simultaneous translation in English. Free entrance.

  • East Timor 2008

    East Timor 2008 – Ανατολικό Τιμόρ 2008

  • Sometimes in life you don’t realize you need or even want something just because you do not know it exists. I first heard about natural building when I started my permaculture studies in Asia and then, more extensively in Australia. I had already seen and stayed in houses constructed with natural materials in many corners of the world, but I somehow connected them with “underdeveloped” or poor societies, where “progress” has not shown its face yet, where necessity or scarcity rather than choice dictates the materials and methods used to build a house…

And, although the above may be true, only when I understood the deep and wide impact of modern building on human health and on the health of the entire planet, did I realize that ecological building may be the only choice we really have. And then, when I saw the little house of Nesson, made by the Greek Cob team, I knew that my dream house is a house like that.

Buildings represent about 40% of fossil energy consumption and carbon production both in the EU and the US. This enormous impact has to do with production and transportation of building materials, with construction, maintenance, with living and working in buildings in a comfortable manner and last, but not least, with their disposal.

Cement and concrete, which are key construction elements, require huge amounts of raw materials and energy to produce and to transport, and their production and transportation are extremely pollutant, too. Modern conventional buildings are energy intensive and pollutant throughout their lives. In a substantial part of the rich world, they need big amounts of fossil fuels to be heated in winter and cooled down in summer in order to provide a comfortable living standard as perceived today. Building materials can be toxic and dangerous to human health. And, finally, when buildings have finished their life cycle, they produce large amounts of waste, which can be toxic as well.

In a broader perspective, industrialization and urbanization in the twentieth century have alienated architecture from the true human needs making it uniform, common, detached from human history and human stories, uninspiring and unfriendly, or making it an architecture of the architects rather than of the people, a work of a detached individual in an individualist world.

There are, though, other approaches to building design and implementation, much less energy intensive, with lighter carbon footprint and friendlier to human nature. One of them is natural building.

Natural building is a construction system using minimally processed natural materials, mostly from renewable or abundant resources found locally, with simple tools and techniques. Its aim is to build healthy, sustainable, energy efficient human habitats, organically integrated into nature. It has been used for thousands of years all over the world, depending on local ecology, geology and climate and in synergy with bioclimatic architecture. Common materials utilised are stone, earth, sand, straw, wood, bamboo, mixed in different combinations and ratios, resulting in varied features. More often than not, the techniques used today blend traditional and modern knowledge and technology.

  • Although natural building is a relatively recent term, this construction approach is not at all foreign to traditional Cycladic architecture. Before the advent of concrete, stone, earth, sand, seaweed, straw and other natural materials found locally were used to build homes, that blended perfectly with the landscape, “as if sprouting from the earth”. (The now ubiquitous white colour on buildings was enforced by Metaxa’s dictatorship before the II World War.) Houses were designed and positioned according to sun track, direction of winds, geology, which were also the key factors to the design and planning of settlements and villages.

  • Shibam, Yemen

    Shibam, Yemen – Σίμπαμ, Υεμένη

Natural homes are cheaper, require less energy and resources to construct, you can build them yourself once you acquire the skills (rather quickly) according to your taste and preferences, and invite your friends and family to come along and help you. They are energy efficient, healthy and pleasant to live in and they are beautiful! They can also be really strong and resistant to rough weather conditions or other natural hardships. From the centuries old Yemenite 7-storey buildings made from sun-dried mud bricks to the centuries old British cob mansions to the traditional “katikies” in Paros hinterland, human ingenuity has proved that it is feasible to build sustainable human settlements with low environmental impact and true quality of life.

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