Tag Archives: Green Building

Got Wood? Then Cordwood Masonry Might Be the Right Green Building Method for You!

Do you have a wooded property or easy access to cord wood?  If so, then you might want to check out the Cordwood Masonry Method for building a green home, office, spa, chicken coop – or whatever else you’re building!

It’s difficult to pinpoint who “invented” the cordwood style of building.  Also known as cordwood masonry, stackwood construction, and stackwall construction, this style of building has been found as far back as 1,000 years ago in portions of Greece and Syberia.

Cordwood is a very easy, affordable and, depending on where you live, very green method of building a structure.  It can be as simple or as elaborate as you’d like, and the style offers a look of natural beauty all it’s own once complete.

This unique building style involves stacking pieces of cord wood, also known as fire wood, as you would bricks, using mortar in between them to seal up the holes and gaps around the logs.  Wherever you can manage to get your own logs, you can build a very eco friendly, natural home with the help of this green building technique.

cordwood home from the 1950s in oregon
Early 1900s Cordwood Masonry home in Oregon


For example, in the United States, Cordwood Masonry became popular in places like Wisconsin, Vermont, and Upstate New York during the Depression because these areas are heavily wooded.  Generally, you need to clear the trees for your home in these locations.  As a result, it becomes quite economical when you can use the same trees you’re cutting for your home site anyway as the building materials for your actual structure.

You do need some time to season your wood which requires planning and preparation, but, in many situations, time is far cheaper than materials costs.  You’ll also need to buy the ingredients for your mortar.

Speaking of which – Experts differ on the exact amounts and combinations of ingredients to use for cordwood mortar, but most recommend a mixture of sand, lime, portland cement, and soaked saw dust.  This is all mixed by hand and applied between each log.

cordwood house at night with recycled glass windows shining
Cordwood house in Del Norte, Colorado showing it’s colors at night via cordwoodmasonry.com


When done correctly these walls offer and exceptional R value and their thermal mass (or ability to absorb heat and slowly radiate it back to the surrounding space) is fantastic.  They also look really really cool inside and out!  Many even incorporate recycled glass bottles, stones, or unique wood ends to add even more style to their finished project.

Want to learn more about cordwood masonry?  There are many wonderful books and even classes you can go to in order to learn more about this building style.  Even novice builders can excel at building their own cordwoood building, but, they should complete a few practice projects first in order to hone their construction skills before delving into a large structure.  To help this along there are also places that facilitate building parties/classes in which participants help build a host’s home.  You get the benefit of experience and they get help with their home.

However you do it, if you have the right property and the right project, cordwood masonry is a green building style that will help you build an earth friendly, natural home or other structure easily.

cordwood peace sign

Rainwater Collection | A Natural Water System For Any Green Building

After living in northern New Mexico for 10 years it’s hard to forget the preciousness of water.  Before living there I knew to turn the water off when brushing, don’t water your lawn at noon, and save water however possible.  But, I didn’t really get real water conservation and especially had no concept of water independence.  We always had city water or a well that had been no issue to dig.

However, that’s not true for many properties in New Mexico and around the world.  Everyone needs water though right? One solution – rainwater collection.

Rainwater Collection is just what it sounds like.  Collecting rain water and storing it for use later.  It’s been done for centuries and is currently very popular in some arid places like the southwestern US, Brazil, China and elsewhere, as well as for people who are designing and building off grid homes like earthships and other types of green buildings.

Rain water harvesting systems are usually gutter systems that instead of emptying the water they catch from the roof into a location in your yard or into the street, they empty it into a holding tank.  At their most basic a rain water collection system could also be a 50 gallon drum or two set near the garden or the water tank for the livestock too.

Take a look at these examples of rain water collection systems for a better idea of what I’m talking about.

rain water collection system emptying into cistern
From Earthship Biotecture this is an image of gutters that will collect the rain water that falls onto the roof of this earthship and funnel it into this underground cistern that will store the water from storms for use within the home later.


rainwater collection system in backyard
This was the backyard of our first house in New Mexico. You can see that the roof empties water into the gutter that then runs into and down through that white pipe on the right of the image. From there it went into an underground cistern. It was amazing to watch it fill with one of those powerful high desert storms! We used the water we collected for everything except drinking.


rainwater collection system
A very nice, clean example of a rainwater harvesting system with the red pipe tucked up there collecting the water from the roof then channeling it into that cool red holding tank for storage.


rain water collection tank
an above ground cistern or rain water collection tank


homemade rainwater collection tank and system
Here's another example of a homemade rainwater collection system with several gutters and pipes feeding that orange holding tank.


Ready to incorporate rainwater collection into your green building?

It’s so easy.

Depending on your climate you may need to dig for your cistern if you plan to use it year round so it’s underground and safe from freezing temps.  Otherwise, it’s just gutters, some type of container to hold the water you collect, along with a way to release the water when you’re ready for it and you’ve got your very own rainwater collection system!

If you just want a small project, try setting up a system off your garage or barn for your garden.  If you like it go bigger!  It’s amazing how much water you can collect and what it can really save you, and the planet.



Earthships – See If This Green Building Method Might Be For You

Here at NaturalMammas.com we’re into learning and sharing about all kinds of natural living ideas, green building included.  One of the unique methods for building an energy efficient, earth friendly home that has really piqued our interest are Earthships.

Earthships are natural homes situated mostly beneath the ground that are generally built with recycled tires filled with dirt for the main structure of the dwelling.  This provides insulation through the thermal mass of the ground as well as the rammed earth walls which helps keep the building warm in the winter and cool in the summer for $0 and all with re used materials!

The house is also designed to be off the grid with active solar, rain water collection systems, and other types of green power and water sources depending on the location of the earthship.  The house is passive solar too ie. all the windows in the Earthship face the point at which the most sun will enter the building year round.  This helps maximize both the heat and the energy the home can pull, use, and store from the sun.

Originally designed in the 70s by architect Mike Renyolds, Earthships were created to be self sufficient dwellings where one could not only live but grow your food, create your own energy, and manage your own waste right at your own home.  Earthships were also designed so that they can be built by those without prior construction experience or knowledge.  And, they’re made to be built with materials (dirt, tires, etc) that are affordable and easy to find all over the world which helps make Earthships not only earth friendly but can assist their owners in staying out of debt to own a natural home at the same time.

Earthships can be built anywhere too – and you’ll find them everywhere..speaking of which, it might just be easier to show you what an Earthship is at this point as opposed to keep attempting to describe them to you cause they really are an original style of alternative architecture!


earthship rammed earth tire interior wall close up
A close up of the interior side of the rammed earth tire walls of an Earthship


earthship interior recycled glass bottle and cal walls prior to plastering
The interior walls of an Earthship made of recycled cans and bottles prior to plastering


plastered earthship wall with recycled glass bottles and cans
A recycled glass and aluminum can wall in an Earthship when finished.


earthship exterior with stone sides
An Earthship with stone exterior as opposed to plaster


Adobe plastered earthship with towers in Taos
One of the Earthships in The Greater World Community outside Taos, NM - the birthplace of Earthships!


earthship mansion with white exterior
A fantastic "Earthship Mansion"


The main windows of an Earthship create a greenhouse
Taking advantage of all that sun with a greenhouse in the Earthship.


If you’ve decided that an Earthship is the right type of alternative building for your green home you’re not alone – this style of construction is growing rapidly and many across the globe are finding that an Earthship is a unique, earth friendly home that helps them become more self sufficient and live the natural lifestyle they’ve dreamed of!