What is Natural Building?

1. Overview of the Topic – Summary:

From Wikipedia: The basis of Natural Building is the need to lessen the environmental impact of buildings and other supporting systems, without sacrificing comfort or health. To be more sustainable, natural building uses primarily abundantly available, renewable, reused or recycled materials. The use of rapidly renewable materials is increasingly a focus.

A Natural Building involves a range of building systems and materials that place major emphasis on sustainability. Ways of achieving sustainability through natural building focus on durability and the use of minimally processed, plentiful or renewable resources, as well as those that, while recycled or salvaged, produce healthy living environments and maintain indoor air quality.

Natural building tends to rely on human labor, more than technology. As Michael G. Smith observes, it depends on “local ecology, geology and climate; on the character of the particular building site, and on the needs and personalities of the builders and users.”[1]

2. What is the focus of this Topic?:

Natural building is any building system which places the highest value on social and environmental sustainability. It assumes the need to minimize the environmental impact of our housing and other building needs while providing healthy, beautiful, comfortable and spiritually-uplifting homes for everyone. Natural builders emphasize simple, easy-to-learn techniques based on locally-available, renewable resources. [2]

Naturally built homes use local, minimally processed, abundant and/or renewable natural materials. They are designed to suit their climate and geography, providing a modest shelter that can last for many centuries. Ideally they, and the way they are lived in, are in balance and harmony with the environment. [3]

3. Why it’s listed here – What is the relevance to Architectural Medicine?

In the definitions of Natural Building in the above paragraphs, a few key components can define the core focus of this topic. The use of local, natural materials, and the focus on creating and maintaining health in buildings, as well as maintaining a healthy ecological and biological environment are critical as goals.

These key components – a focus on the health of the inhabitants and the health of the ecology – are two key topics that Architectural Medicine strives to achieve as well. While Natural Building has existed since the beginning of humans creating their own shelter, in the previous century this has dramatically changed based on modern materials and methods.

Architectural Medicine strives to utilize the wisdom of these natural building materials and methods with more modern architectural practices, to find a healthy balance for best practices in current and future built environments. The process of Architectural Medicine achieving this goal involves using the concepts of Integrative Architecture, which strives to integrate traditional building materials and methods with modern day materials and methods for best practices for healthy, ecological and energy efficient buildings.

4. Common groups and individuals involved with this topic:

While Natural Building has been around as a vernacular building convention since the beginning of humans building shelter, the re-movement began in the mid to late 20th century. Many Natural Building pioneers of the late 1960’s to the 1990’s – from designers, builders and architects, to the average person striving to have less impact on the environment – turned to natural building as a solution to environmental and health concerns of the modern day world.

The environmental movement of the 1960’s, spurred from concerns brought up by those such as Rachel Carson, Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman, were but a few who brought up environmental concerns in the mid 20th century. This, along with environmental issues such as the energy crisis of the 70’s, has inspired people to seek alternatives for healthier, less environmentally destructive building solutions.

Notable proponents and pioneers in this field include the work of Bill and Athena Steen, Rob Roy, Ianto Evans, Linda Smiley, SunRay Kelley, Judy Knox, Matts Myhrman, Cedar Rose Guelberth, Catherine Wanek, David Bainbridge, Joseph F. Kennedy, Michael G. Smith, Robert Laporte, Paula Baker-Laporte and many others.

5. Resources: