Natural homes, strong community
Natural buildings is one way to strengthen communities, earth builder Rosa Henderson says.
Rosa is owner and operator of Sculpted Earth, a company that help designs and builds natural buildings.
She came to Waihi Beach to talk about the designs and materials at the annual National Permaculture Hui held in midMay.
For the last seven years, Rosa travelled the world working on natural building projects in Central America, Africa, South East Asia and more.
She is also known for being the master builder of the Coromandel earthship Te Tı¯matanga featured on TV in Grand Designs NZ.
She says her definition of natural building implies a minimalist process.
“The material need to be sourced locally, being recycled or reused but the term itself cannot fit in a box.
“In parts of South East Asia, South America etc. you can find some houses build entirely with natural material but mostly this days, when we talk about natural buildings, you will still have foundations to a house, not necessary ‘natural’ per se.”
Cob houses, earthships, render, mud bricks, straw bale or timber homes — all can be identified as natural constructions.
She says each material needs to be appropriate for the climate or micro environment it plans to be designed for.
“All the concepts are good but their application need to change and there is no silver bullet. These homes need to have good and dry roots and good hat,” she says.
In New Zealand with the high humidity and rainfall, a natural home needs to be lifted off the ground for dry foundations.
“I would not build an earthship in Wellington, it is too cold and you won’t have enough thermal mass at the back of it . . . The same as building a straw bale house in Kaita¯ia, you might experience waterproofing issues.”
Natural buildings do not require hiring a licensed builder, but it is better to have the skills before getting started, she says.
The owner will have to meet the requirements and apply for permissions and the right consents.
“You will be responsible and liable for it all but it is an awesome adventure. For insurance purposes, reselling etc. it will need to comply with council’s policy,” she says.
There are four steps to get started, Rosa says.
“Really well-designed plans, a dynamic leadership, a good workflow and purpose and ideas behind the building.”
More than a construction, Rosa says that natural buildings are lifting the community spirit.
“Love the home you living in and take care of the structure.
“Part of my role teaching earthship construction is to give a real purpose to a community. All the volunteers have their hands on the clay, it grounds them but also all the details of the building — sculptures and other deco — can be added by them in-situ. To make it fun, we have some talent contests on site, dress up days and share food together and all of these creates a cohesive community.”
Find out more about Rosa’s workonline at www.sculptedearth.co.nz
Natural building expert and owner of Sculpted Earth, Rosa Henderson talking at the NZ Permaculture Hui, held in Waihi Beach.