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11a Camino Ancon, Santa Fe New Mexico 87506 (USA)

Natural Building: Permaculture Approach

What if the design and construction of a building could improve the ecological health of the ecosystem where it is sited? This is what permaculture strives to do through architectural design and siting of homes and structures. Everything gardens in permaculture, and built structures create their own microclimate, divert winds, cast shadows, increase heat island effect, reduce site permeability. Siting and designing a building a major contributing element of human ecosystem is one of our goals. Another one is to work with existing structures to bring forth their potential as contributing part of an ecosystem.

rainwater harvesting building

Using natural and local materials, permaculture helps you design and build structures that are both strikingly beautiful and sustainable. Permaculture has a solid foundation in climate specific design, using biological resources before technological solutions; designed structures often use the sun for heating, and breezes and vegetation for cooling. A permaculture-designed building might feature a wind blocking woodlot to assist in heat retention (through slowing wind speeds) and heat generation (through firewood), or a pond on the sun side to reflect sunlight indoors reducing needs for heating and lighting.

Understanding of building energy efficiency and climate-appropriate design allows for remodel of existing structures to reduce their ecological impact and resource use.


Read more about our own demonstration site and our own permaculture house for cold mountain climate here.

Below are links to the past issues of the Permacuture Drylands Magazine – Sustainable Living in Drylands (1986-1996) on the subject of Building, Site Design and Natural Living.  Please keep in mind that all articles reflect the values of the authors and illustrators, as well as the time periods in which they were written.

Water Harvesting for Desert Urbanites by John Patterson

Use Roof Runoff for a Domestic Water Supply by Daniel Howell

Collect Rainwater from Roofs by Guy Baldwin

Permaculture Design and Sequence by Tim Murphy

Building a House for Bread by Roxanne Swentzell

Building Bale Walls by Tim Farrant

Building With Salvaged Materials by Brandy Winter

Combining Natural Building Materials for Energy Efficiency by Catherine Wanek

Natural Building and Environmental Impact by Ann V. Edminster

One Man’s Straw Bale Odyssey by Matt Myhrman

Simple Straw Bale Cold Frames by Sue Mullen Straw Bale Buildings by David Bainbridge

Straw Bale Odyssey cont’d by Matt Myhrman

Straw Bale Odyssey cont’d by Matt Myhrman2

Third Skin Building Biology by Alessandro Vasselo

Build a Solar Still by Dan Dorsey

Dancing the Solar Arc by Vicki Marvick

Live With Solar Energy by Nina Mohit and Tom Brodersen

Simple Solar Appliances by Dan Dorsey Simple Solar Oven by Dan Dorsey

Zone Analysis in Urban Permaculture by Katherine Waser