There’s a counter-narrative-- a stereotype of sorts--that goes something like this: “natural buildings are made by unlicensed, inexperienced builders under the “radar” of building code officials, using inferior materials and techniques that compromise the structure’s longevity and the occupant’s health and safety.” Some might go further and say that natural building is a “throw-back” of the ‘60s and ‘70s Hippie culture.
Every year hundreds and thousands of permitted “natural” buildings are constructed in the United States and Canada by licensed, dedicated craftsmen and women, and these buildings exceed construction, safety, and energy performance requirements in nearly every way. They're healthy, beautiful, and inspiring to live in, too.
For me, addressing this counter-narrative means having a seat at the table with mainstream builders, suppliers, and code officials, and being licensed is part of that. Building code-level structures mostly from locally abundant, natural materials that out-perform other construction methods (which also use high-embodied energy materials) shines a light along a viable path for local economic and environmental health.
California Straw Building Association (CASBA). This non-profit organization’s purpose is “…to further the practice of straw building by exchanging current information and practical experience, promoting and conducting research and testing, and making that body of knowledge available to working professionals and the public at large.” To that end we raise funds through educational straw building and plastering workshops and book sales, and hold an annual conference to share the latest in straw building. I joined CASBA in 2004, and helped develop the workshop program. I have been on the Advisory Board since 2006, currently helping to manage an effort to update CASBA’s 2001 Detail Book, titled “Straw Bale Building Details: An illustrated Guide for Design and Construction,” available in the spring of 2018. Visit www.strawbuilding.org for more information.
American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association (ARCSA). This non-profit organization’s purpose “is to promote sustainable rainwater harvesting practices to help solve potable, non-potable, storm water and energy challenges throughout the world.” ARCSA offers an education and certification program that helps maintain high performance standards of installed rainwater harvesting systems. I have been a member of ARCSA since 2011, and completed the course of study required to become an ARCSA Accredited Professional in 2012. Visit www.arcsa.org for more information.