the straight line is the road to hell
Last week I participated in an earthbuilding course in Whangarei (pronounced Fahngaray). Other than being our northern most city it's not considered to be very signifcant - turns out however that it has been at the forefront of a revival in earthbuilding in this country.
The 3 main tutors for the course have all been heavily involved in this revival and in getting a set of 'building standards' recognised by the building authorities. What this means is that councils can't just turn people away on a whim (like they used to do) if you apply for building consent for an earth house. Apparently New Zealand is the only country in the world created a set of standards for earth building.
Of course not everyone applies for building consent with earth houses since they're very easy to build in out of the way places where council inspectors rarely visit, but that's another story.
What is most intriguing about the standards is that the earth builders devised them so that the houses could be built by 'normal' people. The result is that you can test your 'standard' earth brick by dropping it onto a hard surface from waist height and seeing how much is chipped off it's corner. This approach caused a great deal of bewilderment amongst government beauracrats but the earthbuilders fought hard and managed to convince them that expensive laboratories and scientists weren't required.
The thing with earth building is that every patch of earth is diffferent and could, in theory, mean laboratory compression tests would be required for every building job. This fact also meant that the course was more about learning to experiment and less about following specific procedures - an approach that is becoming increasingly rare in the industry (where I used to work) and in society as a whole.
As for the course itself, it was thoroughly enjoyable. I was reminded how much fun it is to work with a group of people and also how something like this is great for building a sense of community - something any village or tribe initiater should never forget.
The other great thing about the course is that there were painting, clay-working and sculpting courses being run at the same site which made for an excellent atmosphere, in fact I now think having a sculpter chipping away at a block of stone should be an essential aspect of any building site.
*The title 'the straight line is the road to hell' was a kind of catch phrase during the course. The picture above is of a house we visited, it was half constructed but the bedroom where I took this picture was finished. What you can see embedded in the wall are some blue bottles, a microwave dish and a paua (pronounced paawah) shell.