The second part of this post features six wonderful books for people planning to build their own home, with lots of practical information on materials and building techniques and styles, as well as plenty of inspiration and useful and helpful advice! There is so much to consider and so many decisions to make when building your own home, as well as so much time, physical work and cost, so prior research and planning is essential!
The Natural House Book: Creating a Healthy, Harmonious, and Ecologically Sound Home Environment by David Pearson 1989/ 1992
Given all the effort involved in building your own house, it would be awful if your new home had deleterious effects on your health and this is one of the key tenets of this book, along with the need to be environmentally aware and have as minimal impact on our planet as possible!
The book is divided into three parts:
Part One describes the interaction between you, your home and the environment. It compares the Natural House, defined as providing ‘health for the body, peace for the soul and harmony with the environment’, with dangerous dwellings, full of indoor pollutants and toxic chemicals, and based on wasteful environmental practices.
Part Two examines life systems for comfort and climate (energy efficiency, renewable energy, cooling, insulation, fuel and power, the dangers of radiation and electricity and energy conservation); water (use, pollution and conservation; air (air quality, pollution and air control systems); scent (aromatherapy and herbs); sound (noise pollution and acoustics in the home) and light and colour (daylight, artificial lighting, energy-efficient lighting and colour therapy); and the attributes, costs (health and ecological) and use of a variety of building materials (stone; glass; plaster; metals; earth; timber; reeds and bamboo; canes and grasses; natural fibres, paints and varnishes; and plastics).
Part Three applies all the principles gleaned from the previous parts to the design of spaces within the home: Living Spaces; Sleeping Spaces; Kitchen Spaces; Bathing Spaces; Health Spaces and Green Spaces. It includes a large section on health and ecological hazards in the kitchen, bedrooms and bathroom, as well as lovely illustrations and photographs of beautiful rooms and spaces.
I loved the window seating area, which doubles for sleeping, in the section on Living Areas; the simplicity of Japanese and Scandinavian bedrooms; the passive solar greenhouse attached to the kitchen, outdoor sunrooms and pools, as well as the deep Japanese bath or furo, in which you sit and soak with water right up to your neck!
The appendices include charts featuring sustainable timbers; natural fabrics, grasses and canes; natural paints, varnishes and finishes; household cleaners (their personal and environmental risks and alternatives); household waste; rating your home and indoor air pollution. There is also a list of resources, including materials, organizations and architects, and a glossary and bibliography in the back.
Earth to Spirit: In Search of Natural Architecture by David Pearson 1994
Also written by David Pearson, this book features a large number of vernacular and traditional architecture throughout the world and their influence on modern architecture.
It starts by examining Ancestral Archetypes, before exploring Healing Architecture, the Art of Living in Harmony with the Land, Vernacular Wisdom, Cultural Identity and Living the Dream, all supported by beautiful and inspiring photographs of examples.
In Architectural Archetypes, he gives examples of the original human dwellings: Caves, yurts, hogans, pit houses, roundhouses, pueblos, and kivas.
In Healing Architecture, he discusses the growth of movements like Baubiologie, Organic Architecture and Anthroposophic Design (Steiner), with their use of wood and other natural materials, flowing lines and curves and romantic and spiritual emphases.
The chapter on Harmony with the Land stresses the importance of environmental awareness, energy efficiency, recycling and the inter-relatedness of all living things, as propounded by James Lovelock’s Gaia Theory, giving many examples of different architectural projects, including Australia’s Permaculture, designed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren.
Vernacular buildings also hold many ecological lessons for today’s architects and builders, as they display many ingenious and low-energy-use solutions to living in difficult climates, as well as harmonizing with their local landscapes through their use of local materials.
Authenticity and Cultural Identity are also important concepts in modern architecture, especially with regards to modern developments and finally, in Living the Dream, there are examples of individuals and groups, who are incorporating all the ideas, propounded in this book, into actual practice, like the Centre for Alternative Technology, which we visited in Wales in 1994 and Crystal Waters, Australia’s first intentional permaculture village, in Maleny, Queensland.The Good House Book: A Common-Sense Guide to Alternative Homebuilding by Clarke Snell 2004
An excellent guide to all the different aspects of alternative home building with chapters devoted to
1.Philosophy and Definitions;
Earth : Stone; Mud (cob, rammed earth, adobe, brick, wattle-and-daub, earth plasters and concrete); Metal and Glass;
Plants: Grasses (straw, bamboo, sod roofs using living grasses) and Wood; and
Animal Products (skins, whalebone,dung, blood, milk and urine)
Modern : Plastics and synthetic polymers
Alternative: Recycled and Waste Materials: Used tyres (earthships), byproduct straw (strawbale houses), wood-based waste (cellulose insulation), and recycled plastics and concrete;
: Local Materials: Earth; and Plants; and
: Natural Materials;
3.Structure: Loads; Foundations; Floors; Walls; and Roofs;
4.Temperature: Heating; Cooling; Insulation; Thermal Mass; and Traditional/ Modern and Alternative Approaches to Temperature like masonry stoves;
5.Separation: Forces of Decay (water, sun, wind and life) and House Skins (integrated; applied: walls and roofs), including flashings, breathable walls, stucco and plasters; and green roofs;
6.Connection: Exchange of light and sun, water, air and power, including discussions of rainwater tanks, wells, waste water and compost toilets, septic systems, air quality, and renewable energy;
7.Applications: Examples of six alternative homes: their experiences, decisions and advice. They include: an earthship, a strawbale home; a breathable hot-climate house; a tiny earth-plastered office; a health-conscious home and a conventionally-constructed ‘alternative’ wooden, energy-efficient, passive solar home. Brief notes about all these buildings are detailed in a table at the end of the chapter, according to the previous chapters: their materials, structure, temperature, separation and connection.
8.Reality Check: Cost factors, building codes and considerations and advice for owner-builders.
Throughout the book are countless examples of traditional, modern and alternative approaches with hundreds of photographs, interviews with alternative builders and side bars and detailed drawings, helping to explain concepts.
The final chapter, Going Deeper, lists useful resources (hard copy, internet and buildings) for each chapter.
Building Green: A Complete How-To Guide to Alternative Buiding Methods by Clarke Snell and Tim Callahan 2005
A similar, but much thicker and even more practical book, with lots of detailed suggestions.
Part One: The Basics covers the reasons behind green building (low construction impact; resource efficiency through the life of the building, durability, nontoxicity and aesthetics); and alternative building fundamentals and building strategies, according to structure, temperature, separation and connection) and design (patterns and pattern language).
Building : Examines siting (in relation to sun, water, wind and earth- soil and contour); site work (required to seat the building and ensure good drainage: clearing land, mapping site contours, excavation, retaining walls, layout and digging foundations) and structure (the basic framework – its foundation, wall and roof structures.)
The latter has a huge amount of practical information, with step-by-step photographs on piers and drains, gravel trenches, stem walls, post-and-beam framework, moving heavy objects, tools, termite barriers, preparing and setting posts, building roof trusses, framing the roof, roof decking, living roofs and porches.
Temperature: Discusses the use of cob and other earth mixes, cordwood, strawbale and modified stick-frame to cocoon the building and maintain a stable indoor temperature. Again, lots of practical information on the advantages, disadvantages green credentials of each, as well as how to determine if your soil is suitable, how to build with cob, shaping niches and shelving and using glass bottles (cob); choosing and processing wood, mixing mortar, laying cordwood and round buildings (cordwood); types of strawbale construction (infill vs. loadbearing), bale dimensions, designing with bales, drainage planes, laying bales, water considerations and rendering (strawbale); and wall trusses, wooden laths, insulation, prepping for plaster and use of bamboo (stick framing).
Separation: Covering the walls, roof and floor with skins to protect the building from the forces of decay: covers plastering and stucco and finishing the skin or trim (walls); living roofs; lapped or seamless roof skins, finishing the roof skin, gutters, insulation, drainage, rainwater catchment, and shingles (roofs); and raised or on-grade floors, gravel beds, grouting and hydroponic floor heating (floors); and
Connection: Creating connections between indoor and outdoor spaces via doors and windows; transition zones; and systems (plumbing, heating and cooling, power, lighting and waste disposal). of the topics covered include salvaging windows; building doors from scratch, outdoor work spaces, and patios and courtyards.
The four different alternative building methods and many of the concepts in this book are incorporated an actual construction project and the completed energy-efficient green building is shown in the final chapter and is quite delightful.
Small Strawbale: Natural Homes, Projects and Designs by Bill Steen, Athena Swentzell Steen and Wayne J Bingham 2005
Strawbale construction is a particular favourite of mine, because of its energy conservation, insulation, fire retarding qualities, soundproofing, low cost, thick sills, sculptural and recessing potential and the total look and feel!
This lovely book features a collection of small houses, studios, meditation spaces, outbuildings and landscape walls.
While serving primarily as an inspiring showcase of ideas, it also includes many practical suggestions from basic guidelines for small buildings, roof slope and pitch, shading devices, round buildings, greenhouses, plastering hints, and carving murals to making window seats, built-in furniture, lofts and mezzanines, dormers and alcoves, earthen baking ovens and pantries, as well as numerous house and room plans. It’s a lovely little book for dreamers!
And finally, one book on interior decoration, which complements many of the buildings described in this post: simple, organic, natural, imaginative, creative and highly original!
Ethnic Style: From Mexico to the Mediterranean by Miranda Innes 1991
This beautiful book showcases ethnic interiors from around the world from the carved fretwork and richly embroidered fabrics of Eastern Europe, the simple elegance of Scandinavian wooden houses with sod roofs, the whitewashed plaster walls, blue doors and window shutters, terracotta roofs of Greece to the decorative Moorish partitions, colourful mosaic tile work and the African mud hut walls, painted in abstract patterns with earth and mineral pigments in ochre, brown and black; the decorative arches, cooling courtyards and exquisite brightly coloured textiles of India; the simplicity, harmony, serenity and minimalism of Japanese homes with their paper screens, bamboo matting and sense of order; the Australian bush style and in the Americas: the Shaker furniture; Native American artefacts; brilliant Haitian shutters; and bright Mexican colours!
The second part of the book explores how to create the ethnic look using wood (natural and decorative: painted and carved); rattan, wicker, bamboo and rush; plaster; paint, textiles and ceramics and tiles. There are so many lovely ideas and interiors in this book! It is a real feast for all the eyes alone, though no doubt in practice, it satisfies all the senses and creates a comfortable and highly personal home!!!
Next week, I am exploring some of the beautiful Art Books, which we have in our library…. a visual treat indeed!!!