The Natural Cottage Build – 2012


Cob wall defines a small garden for the strawbale and timberframe guesthouse.  The garden wall will eventually have a green growing roof to shed water.  You see the wood supports for that roof.

Living small in a big way —

We hear sustainability preached far and wide these days….but how much does it really mean when it’s applied to plastic bottles of healthy cleaning solutions, high mileage cars loaded with batteries, and a host of consumer goods?  It’s still plastic, metal, and packaging, isn’t it?  What does it really mean to build sustainably?

Recently I had the opportunity to share in the hands-on build of a strawbale cottage.  I learned that I love working with wood timberframes, that cob is durable enough to withstand two hurricans, that a thatch roof is at least a 50 year roof, that the natural clay plasters structually carry the load to the foundation like a stressed-skin panel system …and most of all, that a community can form in just two weeks with like minded builders eating a lot of barley, vegetables and grits!

Everything that went into this little accessory building either came from the site, or pretty darn close.  The cottonwood timbers we used for the timberframe were from a neighbor, the straw, locally grown.  The thatching for the roof was gathered in the area the previous winter from wetlands nearby (with DNR approval).  There were some nails, a tiny bit of drywall, and twine, but hopefully they came to the site from the US at least.

This tiny building will serve as a guest house for the much larger Strawbale Sudio.  See and

Published by Alexis Wittman

Artist, Designer, Writer, Facilitator living in Northern Michigan Architectural Engineer/Designer owner of Architectural Research + Design.

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