Humans have been creating homes out of the Earth for as long as we’ve existed. It’s only recently that we’ve been building structures out of synthetic materials that may emit hazardous chemicals into our living spaces, and have consistently increased the size of the homes that we live in so that we must import materials from other regions and use massive amounts of fossil fuels in their construction.
This certainly doesn’t need to be the way that we do things, and thankfully there’s been a renewed interest in natural building in response to the ever-increasing burden that our modern ways of construction impose on the Earth and our health. There’s also something to be said for the psychological benefits of taking part in the construction of one’s own home, and in having an intimate connection with where the building materials originated.
Intuitively, it makes sense that we would build our homes out of renewable materials that come from land near where we want to live — everyone has at least some idea that they could potentially chop trees to make a home if push came to shove. But have you ever considered that many people in the world literally construct houses out of the ground around them? Or out of straw bales?
At my permaculture course, I had some practice with making cob — a mixture of clay, straw, and water that can be used as a building material. Houses made out of cob are surprisingly resilient and many have artistic touches that can only be found on a home that has been sculpted by hand.
Straw bales can also be used as a building material and they provide excellent insulation. But they don’t need to look like a shack that wolves come to blow down — they can also be gorgeous! In fact, one might not even know a straw bale house when looking from the outside…
However, as is customary with straw bale construction there is a “truth window” inside this Cleveland Heights home that gives the house away. It’s true — it was constructed in 2008 using locally sourced straw bales!
Inside, the feeling of this home is warm, inviting, and peaceful. The natural building theme is continued throughout the home and much of the interior was molded using earth-based plasters that provide a soft feel to arches, walls, and windows.
Beams made of reclaimed wood provide structure and additional beauty.
Reused materials were incorporated where possible throughout the house. One highlight was a 100-year old workbench that serves as a kitchen counter.
Other highlights of the home include immaculate wooden flooring, and a loft crafted to provide additional space.
While in the midst of the city, this house acts as a sanctuary — the noise from the nearby road disappears and a feeling of warm peace can take over. It was an inspirational house, indeed! And it gives hope for natural building to become popular amongst a greater number of people.
You can read more about this particular home in a Fresh Water Cleveland article.
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