Wood is one of the most sustainable and versatile of materials to build with. Cordwood, greenwood, round wood, wooden frame and wood render are but a few ways to build with wood. Wood can be incorporated into and complement almost any form of natural build.
If you live on a woodland croft you may even be able to build your home using what surrounds you. Remember natural, untreated timber is better for you and for the environment.
A good place to start your wood research:
Straw is harvested annually, it is
super-renewable as well as
super-efficient as insulation.
There are many creative ways to build with straw, from load-bearing and post and beam infill, to creating a hybrid system with other natural materials.
For cold climates like the UK, straw insulation is second to none. Straw-bales are rendered inside and out with either a clay or lime breathable mix.
Building with straw provides loads of opportunity for creativity and community involvement - there's no better way to inspire than inviting folk to get involved and do it for themselves!
Earth building is extremely versatile, it provides excellent thermal mass, stores heat within itself and releases it slowly, helping to regulate the temperature of the building through heating and cooling cycles.
Earth works in tandem with breathable renders and plasters to regulate humidity levels, absorbing moisture when humidity is high, releasing when humidity is low.
There are many different methods used to build with earth, such as rammed earth, earth bag and cob.
Hemp is a very versatile material, it can be used as an alternative to concrete and a lot more besides. The fibers of the plant are mixed with lime to create a substance which hardens like concrete. Unlike concrete, it is a natural material and an excellent insulator which is breathable and lightweight. It can be used for walling, either cast around a wooden frame or in the form of blocks.
Hemp is a crop which can be cultivated throughout most of the habitable world, and lime production requires 80% less energy than cement.
Virtually all old buildings were constructed using lime. A vital ingredients for mortar, render, plaster or decoration (pargeting).
Lime is slow to build with, requires skill and patience but produces durable, attractive and healthy results.
Lime is a low-carbon breathable material, perfectly suited for wall render (inside and out), for the likes of straw-bale.
Lime as limecrete can be used as a natural alternative to concrete in foundations.
A great place to get started and get informed:
Think about where the materials come from
Are they local, renewable, plentiful, readily available?
Where and how are they processed?
How easy would it be to use what is available locally?
How far will they travel to get to you?
Can you find a source to re-use or re-purpose?
What is possible within your budget?
A few choices of natural build materials to consider