Earthen Building Techniques used for DIY Eco-dwellings in Portland

A brief rant by local Natural Builder, Scott Howard, discussing social justice, natural building, permaculture, cob, and the building codes.
A brief rant by local Natural Builder, Scott Howard, discussing social justice, natural building, permaculture, cob, and the building codes.

“Probably a lot of Portlanders, myself included, are wondering if they will ever be able to buy a house in Portland. Or if they buy one, will they be able to afford to keep it. Well I would like to offer once again a simple solution which is to build your house yourself, with help from your community. If you help me build my house, I will help you build yours. Doesn’t that sound like a good deal for everyone? Rather than go into the details of exactly how one could build a very advanced and efficient dwelling with little more than sand and clay from the building site, here I will stick to general comments about what I see going on now.

Have you heard of Re-code Portland? This amazing new group is working to get greywater, blackwater, and even the use of earthen building materials onto the legal list. Wow, right?! So very soon I believe there will be more and more acceptance of earthen building materials and techniques into the construction world. Especially since the economy right now seems to be driving everyone’s thoughts toward efficiency. Natural Building, Permaculture, Systems thinking, and following the pre-existing patterns in nature can bring about amazing efficiency. I think we can all now advocate fully for this kind of approach. It merits more investigation, wouldn’t you say? And all of the aforementioned ways of thinking point in the same direction. For example, using building materials from the immediate site is many times more efficient than transporting materials across great distances on the earth before using them.

Teaching people to build earthen or ‘Cob’ structures has taught me in every imaginable way. Ten years ago my imagination was rattled by a great speech given by Rob Boleman of Maitrea Ecovillage, Eugene, Or. He showed me more about the connection between social justice and the way we build our structures. The truth is, we should all be looking to the under-developed nations right now. Their towns and cities are more efficient because people are so resourceful. Mother Earth will definitely be happier if we in this country tone down our resource use (buildings alone account for some odd 40% in the U.S.) I’d rather see the U.S. move toward a humbler existence than see everyone in the world try to achieve the same opulence at the same moment…

Let’s take back our right to build our own dwellings. Natural building techniques are empowering because they use inexpensive materials, on-site materials, eco-friendly materials, and promote a closer connection to Mother Earth in their construction and use. Everyone deserves a little house. It will take a lot of people being really cooperative with one another, in addition to a great amount of observation, skill, and determination.”

Scott Howard

Source: Portland Independent Media

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