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Art Of Natural Building, The [Paperback]

Joseph Kennedy
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 10 2009

The search for housing that is healthy, affordable, and environmentally responsible is leading a growing number of people to take a fresh look at building techniques long shunned by the modern construction industry.

Recently, books on specific techniques such as straw-bale construction, cob or rammed earth have become available, but there has been little to introduce the reader to the entire field. The Art of Natural Building fills that void wholly by being a complete and user-friendly introduction to natural building for non-professionals as well as architects and designers. From straw bale and cob to recycled concrete and salvaged materials, this anthology of articles from leaders in the field focuses on both the practical and the esthetic concerns of ecological building designs and techniques. Above all, this empowering guide demonstrates that anyone can design and build a home from natural materials that is beautiful, low-cost, and environmentally-sensible.

Profusely illustrated, The Art of Natural Building is divided into five sections. The first provides an overview of the natural building movement from the various perspectives of sustainability, lifestyle, and health. The second section looks at planning and design, followed by a section that focuses on specific techniques and the vast variety of materials used in natural building. Next, examples of diverse natural dwellings are shared-from a Hybrid Hobbit House to a thatched studio and a cob office. Finally, complementary systems, such as solar appliances, composting toilets, and alternative power systems are covered. Packed with additional resources and a bibliography, this is the encyclopedia of natural building!


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Review

The search for housing that is healthy, affordable, and environmentally responsible is leading a growing number of people to take a fresh look at building techniques long shunned by the modern construction industry.

Recently, books on specific techniques such as straw-bale construction, cob or rammed earth have become available, but there has been little to introduce the reader to the entire field. The Art of Natural Building fills that void wholly by being a complete and user-friendly introduction to natural building for non-professionals as well as architects and designers. From straw bale and cob to recycled concrete and salvaged materials, this anthology of articles from leaders in the field focuses on both the practical and the esthetic concerns of ecological building designs and techniques. Above all, this empowering guide demonstrates that anyone can design and build a home from natural materials that is beautiful, low-cost, and environmentally-sensible.

Profusely illustrated, The Art of Natural Building is divided into five sections. The first provides an overview of the natural building movement from the various perspectives of sustainability, lifestyle, and health. The second section looks at planning and design, followed by a section that focuses on specific techniques and the vast variety of materials used in natural building. Next, examples of diverse natural dwellings are shared-from a Hybrid Hobbit House to a thatched studio and a cob office. Finally, complementary systems, such as solar appliances, composting toilets, and alternative power systems are covered. Packed with additional resources and a bibliography, this is the encyclopedia of natural building!

About the Author

All three editors are central practitioners in the natural building movement. Catherine Wanek is the publisher and editor of The Last Straw Journal. Joseph F. Kennedy has expanded the boundaries of ecological architecture with NASA's space station habitability module. Michael Smith is the author of The Cob Cottage (Chelsea Green, 2001), among other books.


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Customer Reviews

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stylishly Ethical Living July 12 2002
By J.W.K
Format:Paperback
Today, around 5 million people on Earth work and live in buildings made of adobe, stone, rammed earth, straw bale, cob, wattle and daub and so forth. That is, most of our planetary brothers and sisters live in earthen houses that rely on renewable human labor and local resources like mud, straw, rock and tree. These houses are less energy intensive, more durable, and are often more esthetically pleasing than so-called "modern" homes, as this book shows.
"The Art of Natural Building" questions the environmental responsibility of a 5,000-sq-foot, 500,000-dollar house. As more and more people begin to make the kind of money it takes to buy their own American Dream house, we must question the feasibility our of contemporary building practices. Would it be possible cover the globe with modern homes? Building companies certainly think so, but aside from what a project of this immensity what mean environmentally, the resources are simply not available.
There is simply not enough lumber, brick, cement, and processed material to go around. Our building industry would gladly sell us into oblivion if it meant a buck or two in the short-haul, but we need to get away from this kind of thinking. We also need to consider the environmental impacts of our current practices. What are these impacts?
As this book reminds us, buildings already account for one quarter of the world's wood harvest, two-fifths of its material and energy use, and one-six of its fresh water usage. In the past 100 years the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen 27 percent, one-quarter of which has come the burning of fossil fuels just to provide energy for buildings. During the same period, the world lost more than 20 percent of its forest.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slightly delusional May 16 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is a very interesting book. It's mostly not about natural building, but rather a book about alternative wall building. Of the four major parts of a house - foundation, floors, walls, roof - this is an awful lot of information about walls, and very little else. Foundations covered in a few cursory pages, almost nothing on roofs, and nothing on floors at all, except for ground level earthen floors.
There is less world-saving going on than meets the eye. Almost all the bad stuff whether large amounts of timber, or reviled composites is in the roofs, floors, and foundations. When it comes to having wildflowers as part of the roof, they even embrace some pretty nasty membrane products.
There is also a fair amount of self-delusion going on. In the section on timber frames the author mentions the savings to be had by timber framed walls vs. stud walls, but makes no mention of the unsustainable old growth used in timber frames. Nor does he mention that the infill to timber frames is either the same studwalls he claimed to avoid using, or highly toxic SIPs. in total most timber buildings are built twice once for the frame, and enough infill material to again carry all structural loads. The same comments can be made about straw bale, cordwood and so forth, often as much wood is used avoiding studs as using them.
Natural building is completely unlikely to make an ounce of green difference in the West. It mainly won't be used, and where it is, it will just be another trophy home "look". Still it's all great stuff for dreamers, and the odd few who will actually build their own little earthship.
Because of all the authors contributing, the standard of information is highly inconsistent, but in the main good.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Art of Natural Building Dec 12 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is a great place to start your research if you are interested in natural building. Web sites, resorce books and organizations are listed at the end of each chapter. This book started my career in natural home building.
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