First Experiments In Natural Building

| 9/11/2013 9:09:00 AM

For Eric, Loren and I (co-founders of, this is the story that began our journey into natural building. We had been living on a beautiful piece of land on the edge of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon in 2011, living out-of-doors with a group of friends when we suddenly realized: Winter is Coming! Instead of moving back into a house in the city, we made the life-changing decision to build our own home, learning everything from books and the internet as we were doing. This was our first ever natural build project – we want to hear about your first project. Post them in the comments below or on Facebook page.

Photo by Michael Beck

Here is yet another possible building project presented to you which requires no formal training, very little money, and techniques/methods that anyone can use. This blog intends to inspire you to take on a natural building project like this one. Don’t have fear if this is your first time working with these techniques and materials — this was our first ever natural building experience, one that has taken us to strange, wonderful places.

Inspired by Michael Reynold’s documentary, “Garbage Warriors,” we decided to build our winter shelter with rammed-earth tires for our walls. We didn’t do much planning before or during the build process, but instead relied more on intuition, making decisions as we encountered the specific stage of building. Every night, we sat around the campfire drinking beers and talking about how the day went, what the next steps in the building process are, materials we need, dreams we have, etc. One of these intuitive decisions was to place a large log along the tire wall horizontal to the door frame. This decision, perhaps my favorite of the whole build, allowed us to have a loft for sleeping and playing in!

Photo by Michael Beck.

For the roof, we decided upon a reciprocal one, an increasingly popular method of building a roof frame. It is very simple to construct, very aesthetically pleasing and can be built with nothing else than wood (no nails, rope, etc!). Reciprocal structures can even be placed directly on the ground for a quick, temporary shelter.

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