Nat­u­ral homes, strong com­mu­nity

Waihi Leader - - News - By ME­LANIE CAMOIN news@wai­

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.sculpt­


Nat­u­ral build­ing ex­pert and owner of Sculpted Earth, Rosa Hen­der­son talk­ing at the NZ Per­ma­cul­ture Hui, held in Waihi Beach.

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