We choose to build naturally because of its low carbon footprint and sustainability. We use natural materials like clay, river rocks, wood, bamboo, rice straw and carabao dung. Natural building is inexpensive, healthy, environment-friendly and the materials are readily available. As much as we can, we minimize the use of industrially produced materials like cement and steel.
For our first build, we used the wattle and daub technique. A wattle is a panel made of woven wooden or bamboo strips daubed with the mud mixture. It’s a technique usually used for non-load bearing interior walls, but can also be used for exterior walls especially those built in regions that need no insulation from cold exterior temperatures like the tropics. It is thick enough to insulate the inside of the structure from extreme high temperatures but thin, light and safe enough for earthquakes. The wattles are then daubed with a mixture of clay, sand, straw and water.
The great thing about our project site is that the materials we need to build are locally available. We have the creek for rocks, gravel and sand. We use rice straw given to us by neighbors. We have a bamboo forest with a particular species locally called “bolo,” which is good for making walls and frames. For posts, we use the bamboo called “bayog,” which we buy cheap from a nearby seller. This kind of bamboo is good for building so we started planting for our future needs. For the thatched roofing, we have neighbors who sell cogon grass, one of the traditional roofing materials used here in the Philippines. And we get our supply of clay soil within the property.
Last December, we started gathering the materials we needed for our first build – a tool shed with a small sleeping area for our friend Danny, situated in a shaded place because it gets really hot here during summer. In January, we started the foundation, the posts and roofing frame. We had a hard time with the foundation specifically on deciding if we’d be using cement for mortar. We finally went for it to test how it bears with the amount of rain we get during the rainy season. Our neighbor Zaldy who has experience in building traditional Filipino bamboo huts, helped us put up the posts and make the frames.
We then prepared the cogon grass roofing using the “bolo” bamboo as frames and strips of young “bayog” bamboo for tying.
When we were finished with the wattles and had all the other materials for the mud walls, we called on our neighbors to help in the daubing of the walls. We were overwhelmed by the support of the community including some of the local officials.
We mixed the mud with our bare feet. Everybody enjoyed doing it especially the kids!
The daubing part was a bit tricky for us at first. But when we got the hang of it, it came naturally and it was a blast!
Since we started the tool shed, friends and relatives have visited and helped in the build.
It is still an unfinished job, but we have the whole summer to do it… come and join us!
*This is just our first build, if you have any suggestions on how we can do the foundation of our next building project without using cement as mortar with consideration on the amount of rain we get, please let us know.#
(Photos by Cye Reyes and Carol Galvez)