Natural Building Fun!

by Theron Beaudreau, Austin, Texas

Building slipform walls out of woodchip mulch and paper pulp. We put together this video to show how fun natural building can be… especially if you enjoy getting a little dirty!

Every Sunday I’ve been getting together with some friends to work on various permaculture projects. It’s something that’s become a trend for several years now. There have been several ebbs and flows over the course of that time but the general trend has been ever climbing. These days, Sunday workday/potlucks are the norm for me and my circle of friends. Just over this past year we’ve built several gardens, re-landscaped a housing co-operative’s front entryway and built a few aquaponics systems. During the month of February, we took to a natural building project that will soon become a large new greenhouse.

For this project we knew we wanted several strong, well insulated, walls. Going into the project we already had an idea for a natural building technique using woodchip mulch of which, we just happened to have a surplus. Also on hand was a large bale of weathered paper pulp left over from a previous papercrete project. Mixing in a little lime and concrete we came up with a surprisingly strong structure that sets nicely and shows very little evidence of slumping!

Check out the fun video above that I put together!

This is definitely an experiment and I look forward to the results… whether they be full of successes or failures (or both!) they will most certainly be educational!!

The good news is that we have a structure to experiment with that isn’t intended as a living space. So, should there be failures on any level (even catastrophic) we’ll be able to recover and, best of all, we’ll learn a great deal about how to do it better the next time!

After the "mulchcrete" wall is plastered we’ll add the greenhouse panels and plastic over the top and begin to build our new aquaponics system, propagation table and guinea perch (we need a warm place to shelter the guinea hens when the weather turns bad.)

Stay tuned for updates to that project and others were working on as they develop.

Some of the things on our list include…

  • More aquaponics!
  • a DIY ram-pump
  • a street drainage filtration system
  • grey water
  • outdoor kitchen and shower
  • food forestry
  • passive irrigation for your kitchen garden using mini-swale double-reach beds (a design favorite of mine!)
  • the list goes on… please stay tuned!

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3 thoughts on “Natural Building Fun!

  1. Great article Theron. Can you supply the recipe for your mixes? Sounds like a great way to spend a weekend.

  2. Thanks guys! Funny actually, I didn’t post this… well, at least, I didn’t post this here. I wrote this up as an update for my PermacultureGlobal profile. I was happy to see this up here too as it was a really great, albeit unexpected, surprise!!

    And to answer your question, Charles…

    We used an approximation of the following formula:

    1 part cement
    1.5 parts lime
    4 parts soaked paper pulp
    4 parts water
    16 parts woodchip mulch

    To be honest… it was not a very exact science coming up with this mix. Fortunately the medium we were working with was very forgiving and I think it turned out much better than any of us really anticipated… I guess the same could now be said of the awesome response and positive feedback!

    Thanks everyone!

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