Introduction To Natural Building Materials


“Natural building materials are better for the environment, durable, reusable, recyclable, and biodegradable, obtained locally.  Learn about the different materials you can use to build an eco-friendly shelter.”

What is Natural Building?

Natural building “involves a range of building systems and materials that place major emphasis on sustainability.” ( Wikipedia) Materials are often locally sourced, and ecologically sound. They can often incorporate ancient techniques as well.  Natural building can incorporate cooling, alternative waste-treatment, and electricity into its design. This method also tends to be more labor intensive, and less about the use of technology. I am still learning about these techniques, but this subject is right up my alley given our tagline “getting back to our roots.” Ancients cultures used these techniques to build structures that are still standing to this day. 


Natural Building Materials

  1. Adobe- Adobe is one of the oldest bulding materials that is still in use today. Made of dirt mixed with water, and sometimes other fibers such as straw one can form bricks to create shelters and homes. 
natural building materials

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2. Straw Bale-  Straw bale is used for timber frame building and in load bearing capacity to carry the weight of the roof. In the Southwest, this materials has become very popular. It is renewable, and provides great insulation and is fire resistant. Straw bale building typically consists of stacking a series of rows of bales (often in running-bond) on a raised footing or foundation, with a moisture barrier between.  

3. Cob- Cob is a mixture of clay, sand, straw and earth. It’s use dates back about 10,000 years. It’s simple to make,  inexpensive, and versatile. It can be made into a stiff mud and formed into “cobs.”

4. Wood-  One of the most popular building materials, however, in natural building, one should use sustainable wood that is renewable. It can be used for frams, flooring, and trims. 

5. Bamboo- This is not so popular in North America, because it’s difficult to import, but Bamboo is a great source of a fast growing renewable building materials that is also very versatile. Bamboo is a form of grass, but it is strong enough to replace steel and wood. It can also be used as a concrete replacement and used as pins in straw bale building. 

6. Masonry- Describe as the building of structures from individual units, that uses primarily bricks and stone. In practice it’s used for foundations, floors, walkways, and landscaping. 

7. Earth bags- Earth bags are fabric sacks filled with soil. They can be used for domes and walls.  They are commonly referred to as sandbags. They have a variety of applications, which can include flood walls, and use for other severe weather. 

8. Earth- There are a few ways to use Earth in natural bulding. You can do Earthen Floors, Rammed Earth ( used to create walls), and Earthships (rammed earth). There are a lot of options, but of course this method is very labor intensive, and can take some time to fully dry. 

9. Reclaimed Materials- This involves useing a variety of materials that were used before. This can include old wood, windows, piping, insulation and concrete.


  1. Den’s Garden – 10 Natural Building Materials 
  2. Dancing Rabbit- Natural Building

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