Stone houses and almost no electricity

“Valle Bavona is surrounded by hydroelectric power plants, but in the 1950s its inhabitants rejected electricity. Keeping away from modernity has been a plus for the valley. Since it had no electricity, no new buildings were constructed and the valley retained much of its authenticity.”

We don’t talk much about stone building or stone houses due to the enormous amount of labor required. I helped build a small stone foundation years ago and was surprised how long it took. Despite being labor intensive, stone is one of the most durable and beautiful of all natural building materials. My standard building advice is to use stone sparingly for entryways, wood stove surrounds and so on. But if you live in a place like Valle Bavona in the mountains with abundant stone and have almost unlimited time and a strong back then stone construction is an option.

Just for fun, do a Google Image search for “Valle Bavona” if you want to see lots of pictures of the stone houses there. It has lots of old world charm.

5 thoughts on “Stone houses and almost no electricity”

  1. Wonderful. Thanks for this. Slipform method is supposed to be a lot easier. So, the advice above can be overlooked about being sparing when working with stone.

    • It’s still a LOT of work. Stonework is slow and difficult no matter how you do it. But I love the look of stone and I like to work some into the design in key focal areas.

      • Slipform stone construction is described as: “easy for a novice to build free-standing stone walls”. Loads of info available, too. And great books. One, by Tomm Stanley, called Stone House: A Guide to Self-Building with Slipforms, he uses a lot of rebar, being in an earthquake prone area. Seems to be different styles of approaches from one person to the next, but essentially, all making it attractive for new builders.

        • Don’t misunderstand. Stone building is a LOT of hard work no matter what method you use. Working with stone in general is the slowest method. I recommend volunteering on a house raising party in your area. These are free events where the community helps someone build their house in exchange for learning and a free lunch. You will soon see stone building is not “easy”, ha ha. It’s like lifting weights all day. And to be fair, earthbag building is not “easy” either. I usually use words like simple, low tech and fairly fast. For instance, groups of untrained villagers in Nepal are building earthbag walls for 2-classroom schools in Nepal in 10-14 days. This is around 20-50 times faster than stone building. Plus, earthbag requires less rebar and concrete because it’s more resilient/flexible and therefore more earthquake resistant than stone building. Most stone buildings in Nepal collapsed last year.


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