Announcing natural building course dates for 2017

We are thrilled to announce that both courses will be held at Jakkalskloof bio-dynamic training farm in Swellendam this year.

Dates for 2017:

  • 19 – 25 March: Natural building course: materials and techniques (7 category 1 SACAP credits) ~ Jakkalskloof farm
  •  14 October: Natural building course: materials and techniques (7 category 1 SACAP credits) ~ Jakkalskloof farm

For more information please visit our course page or send us an email at naturalbuildingcollective@gmail.com to book your spot!

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Q&A with Paul Marais, award-winning architect specializing in rammed earth

First off, congratulations on winning the Afrisam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture + Innovation for Sustainable Product/Technology for your design of the rammed earth Otto cottage in Maun, Botswana. 

Thank you, I am very pleased for recognition of this off grid, rammed earth building , where I designed and built the house, energy & water systems and sewerage.

The award-winning rammed earth Otto cottage in Maun, Botswana. Designed and built by Paul Marais. Photo courtesy of Paul Marais.

The award-winning rammed earth Otto cottage in Maun, Botswana. Designed and built by Paul Marais. Photo courtesy of Paul Marais.

How did you first get involved in natural building?

I have been always interested in natural buildings and as a student studied natural building in Malawi and Zambia.  I have travelled a lot in remote Africa and have an interest in indigenous architecture which is both material and energy efficient.  Continue reading

Q&A with Jill Hogan, a pioneer of natural building in South Africa

How did you first get involved in natural building? 

Jill Hogan at Cobbit's Cottage.

Jill Hogan at Cobbit’s Cottage.

In the early 90’s my life changed completely and I found my self alone. In wanting to be part of a community, I met Hurta Stuurman and did some work with her on her cob house at Hermanus/Stanford and knew that this is what I wanted to do. It combined my concept of Permaculture with creating an organic home for myself, while allowing me to use my knowledge of earth/clay.

Tell us about your journey.

In the 70’s I worked for a nursery. I had a pot plant business, but was exposed to organic veggie gardening and became more and  more interested. At the same time, I started doing pottery and assisted in teach children with learning disabilities now known as ADHD, and so was exposed to lateral thinking.

In the 80’s I went back to “school” and did a fine arts majoring in ceramics.

In 1992 I was introduced to Permaculture and did the design course with John Wilson from Fambidanzia, at Tlholego in Rustenberg, and I developed a true passion for sustainable development.

Someone was setting up an Eco Village in McGregor and I was drawn to become one of the original developers. But personality clashes among the original six members caused the project to collapse, sending me into McGregor itself where I bought a piece of land in the town. Continue reading

How to incorporate passive solar design in your building, using thermal mass and insulation.

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Passive solar design is the starting point of sustainable building. Once one understands the basic principles of using the abundant natural renewable resources at our disposal we become more creative in our approach to design, more in tune and observant, reconnecting us with the natural rhythms that surround and sustain us, if only we would pay attention. Sustainable buildings save money, reduce your carbon footprint and provide a healthy living environment, transforming buildings from consumers of energy to producers and forging buildings that meet our needs.

From a permaculture perspective, incorporating these aspects into the design of your home are excellent examples of several permaculture design principles. To mention the most obvious: Observing and interacting with your environment to make the most of the sun’s migration, catching and storing energy, using and valuing renewable resources and services, integrating functions and elements rather than segregating them and obtaining a yield from the planet’s most abundant energy source, the sun.

Passive Solar Design uses the energy provided by the sun and stored in the earth. First we need to look at how this energy is utilized by defining insulation and thermal mass and then look at the strategies of how to incorporate them into our designs.

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Take charge of your power needs, Part 2: How to design your own off-grid solar energy system

Please note in order to make sense of this blog post you need to read Part 1: Solar energy as an alternative to centralized power systems.

How to design a solar system to meet your needs, Part 2

As we’re heading into winter South Africa’s continued loadshedding will have an even greater affect at home and work as people spend more time indoors requiring amongst other things more lighting as well as heating. We are blessed with abundant sunny days making solar very reliable without the need for a lot of backup storage in the form of batteries. If you are considering going off the grid, whether partially or fully, my previous post will give you a basic understanding of how solar energy works and the components of the system. In this post, I show you how to calculate your energy requirements, as well as choose an inverter, batteries and solar panels to suit your needs.

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Take charge of your power needs, Part 1: Solar Energy as an alternative to centralized energy systems

How to design a solar system

Currently, in South Africa the centralized electrical grid is unstable and has led to the current reality of regular power outages; subsequently many people are considering solar as an alternative. We are blessed with abundant sunny days making solar very reliable without the need for a lot of backup storage in the form of batteries. These equations shift depending on where you live, however even countries like Germany which is not as blessed with as much sunshine, place a large emphasis on solar technology as part of their energy solution. Whether you live connected to the electrical services grid, or off-the-grid, there are compelling reasons to use alternative sources of energy.

This post will give you a basic understanding of how solar energy works and the components of the system. If you have no experience in electrical energy at all it may seem a little daunting, however the math is really simple and with a little practice it’s as easy as ABC.

Continue reading