Earth Floor on channel 4’s: Grand Designs

I’m very proud that an Earth Floor I created has just been shown on Channel 4’s: Grand Designs.

The episode can be seen here for a few more weeks

It was a joy and honour to be a small part of Ed and Rowena’s incredible journey in creating this very special home. The approach and outcome are equally wonderful. 

 The finish was linseed oil and a final coat of beeswax to finish. This floor is waterproof and hard wearing yet it has a slight softness to it which is very satisfying to walk on.

The clay for the floor was dug on site and the sand was from within a mile away. 

Many thanks to Joe from Hartwyn for his hard work helping to lay the floor before the TV deadline!

More info on earth floors can be found on

Natural Building Books – My Recommendations

natural building books

In the age of the internet, I am still a huge believer in the humble natural building book. I can be drawn much deeper into a book, and stay much more focused. On our Hartwyn internship builds, I bring along my bookshelf for the interns to paw over, it’s really lovely to see!

So here, I shall list my favorite natural building books. I suspect this will be a work in progress as more come out (I’m eager to get my hands on Chris Magwood’s new one!).

If you think I have missed an important one, please add a comment!

Natural Building books

Making Better Buildings: A Comparative Guide to Sustainable Construction for Homeowners and Contractors – Chris Magwood

chris magwood building better buildings“Making better buildings” looks at each element of a build (foundations, insulation, roofing), and analyses the options available. Using handy graphics you can quickly see how the options compare to each other and which fits your criteria for construction.

It goes into a small, but concise, amount of detail for each option but will give you a good starting point for further research.


The Natural Building Companion: A Comprehensive Guide to Integrative Design and Construction – Jacob Deva Racusin & Ace McArleton

 I first became aware of Jacob and Ace at the International Straw Bale Conference in Colorado. I was hugely impressed by Jacob’s presentation and the level of thought and detail he put into his work. This book is a powerhouse of information – it is a proper read!

Continue reading

Limewashing a lighthouse

lime washed lighthouse


The Lighthouse was opened in 1873, and is a rare example of granite stones being used on the West Coast of Norway. Because of this, it has been given Norway’s highest order of listed building protection. The lighthouse also has a lot of history from the second world war, where it was modified by German troops to be a lookout, and features artwork on the basement walls painted by troops stationed there.

For many years there would have been people living in the lighthouse, burning fires in the fireplaces. Nowadays the lighthouse is automated and functions as a museum and art gallery. The lighthouse has been increasingly suffering from damp, which is damaging the building and the historic painting within.

The dampness has been attributed to:

  • Inappropriate materials being applied to the building – in the form of cement pointing, and latex paints.
  • The change in use of the building and no longer having proper ventilation (the chimneys have been blocked)

The Solutions to Damp

As part of a series of works to preserve the lighthouse, it was decided to:

  • Remove the cement pointing and replacing with lime.
  • Fix the guttering so that water did not pour onto the face of the wall.
  • Lime wash over the blocks and pointing to give the building a ‘skin’ of breathable lime.

Why use Lime Wash?

To many, lime may look much like cement. It has some very key differences in how it handles moisture. Cement will trap moisture in, while lime will allow the moisture to breathe out of the building.

Many historic buildings have had cement added in efforts to protect them by well-meaning people. Cement is a harder and stronger material, but because of the way it handles moisture is largely unsuitable…. and some other reasons that I shall save for another post.

Why not use a local contractor?

The job was put out to tender, following the production of a report on the lighthouse. None of the proposals that came back were suggesting using suitable materials. Some even suggesting the use of cement.

The knowledge of how to use traditional materials seems to have largely died out in this part of Norway.

lime washed lighthouse

lime wash – How to make a hot mix

The finished limewashed house

We just finished applying a hot lime wash to our ‘Ty Twt‘ building in Wales. Here you can see the finished building.

Ty Twt with its final coat of hot lime wash.
Ty Twt with its final coat of hot lime wash.

Ty Twt is a load bearing straw bale house completed by my company, Hartwyn using our intern building model. The house was completed in 11 weeks in 2016, with a final weekend to finish up the lime and green roof just completed in July 2017. Continue reading

Groundwork Natural Building Video Series

straw bale home

Sculpted by hand from a mixture of clay, sand and straw, building houses out of cob is a full mind and body experience; one that requires patience. But these homes are worth the wait!

Building on ancient traditions, today’s timber framers and selective loggers are forging a sustainable future. Visit the people behind some of the most intriguing wooden structures in British Columbia

It seems counterintuitive that a framework packed with straw bales could create such a sturdy home. In fact, the straw acts as a natural vapour permeable insulation that allows these buildings to breathe.

A rammed earth wall is durable, energy efficient, and made from the most abundant material on the planet. Learn how these builders and homeowners applied this ancient technique to create timeless contemporary homes.

**I don’t agree with adding cement to a rammed earth wall. It doesn’t need it, and it actually changes the way the walls handle moisture for the worse while making the walls too rigid. Cement has been added over the years because people don’t understand. It’s such a shame!

From the Ground Up’s work on Bandevi School which will house approximately 450 students.

Earth blocks are being used by my friend to rebuild a school destroyed by the 2015 earthquake in Nepal.

Click here to support the project

We are fundraising to contribute towards the large cost of buying a truck for FTGU to allow them to transport materials for the rebuild of Bandevi School which was destroyed in the 2015 earthquake.
Currently, funds which should be getting spent on materials are being spent on transport of materials to the remote building site. Buying this truck will create 3 more jobs and will allow FTGU to continue investing in the Ghumarchowk community for years to come.
To raise the money needed, we are offering you the chance to be a part of the school. Making bricks in our brick machines which were hand-built by Nick is a labour intensive, slow process but the bricks are very strong and will hopefully save childrens’ lives in the event of another earthquake. The 6 new classrooms will safely house approximately 450 students.
How can you help? Sponsor a brick for £5.00 and be part of something truly amazing. We will spray your name on the brick(s) and send you a photo to show you what you’re supporting. Sponsor more than 50 bricks, and we will put your name on a plaque above the entrance to the school, your legacy will live on forever!
Thank you for helping us to help this much deserving community.

See more of the earthquake’s effect.

Compost toilets – A beautiful place to poo!

Compost toilets, a beautiful solution

The team at Invisible Studio architecture firm, show the world how to take the smallest room in the house… out of the house with this gorgeous long drop compost loo.

This compost loo looks to utilise a wheely bin as the storage chamber. Once it’s full it can be wheeled out of the way to breakdown and a new bin inserted.


Original story found on treehugger