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The Natural Building Companion: A Comprehensive Guide to Integrative Design and Construction (Yestermorrow Design/Build Library) Paperback – 15 Jun 2012

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4.4 out of 5 stars 13 reviews from Amazon.com

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Choice-
-Natural building is broader in its approach and scope than green building,- state Racusin and McArleton (both, Yestermorrow Design/Build School instructors) in The Natural Building Companion. The volume's 21 chapters, which cover topics ranging from soil and acoustics to straw bale and energy electricity, are divided into three parts: 'The Context for Natural Building, ' 'Building Science and Performance, ' and 'Natural Building Practices.' The natural techniques described all speak to broader concerns about better, healthier ways of building, intended to eliminate volatile organic compound (VOC) off-gassing; and to create living environments that are designed and built as if climate mattered. These approaches also aim to reduce buildings' reliance on expensive and energy-consuming mechanical systems for maintaining comfortable living conditions. On a more detailed level, the authors delve into product ingredients, e.g., lime in mortars. They even supply recipes for finishes. Their view is that designing and building shelter to meet a wide range of human needs and local environmental conditions need not be a luxury. An additional bonus is an instructional DVD that allows readers to visualize many of the techniques the authors discuss. This book is an excellent hands-on companion to any and all books on architecture. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above; general readers.



-A thorough treatment of both the context for and specifics of natural building, this book is a wealth of resources all in one place. Though geared to the Atlantic Northeast, there is still more than enough here to make it a must-read for natural builders everywhere.---Bruce King, author of Design of Straw Bale Buildings and Buildings of Earth and Straw



-Fun. Easy to Read. Details that are useful in just about any climate, but particularly in cold climates. As the title clearly states, this book is a true 'companion' to take along on one's natural building journey. A well-thought-out account of Jacob and Ace's experiences and the methods they have evolved over the years. One of the best natural building books published in recent years.---Bill Steen, coauthor, The Straw Bale House



-The Natural Building Companion is a joy to read. The approach is holistic, the style is generous, and the authors gracefully balance technical details, beautiful spaces, and big ecological questions. This book empowers the reader to make choices that matter-for their own home and for the health of our planet.---Paul Lacinski, coauthor of Serious Straw Bale



-This excellent and thoroughly researched book reflects the progression of natural building. It eloquently expresses the beautiful marriage between experience and experimentation, fact and anecdote, science and soul. Deva and Ace have built us a much needed bridge between natural building and green building. The Natural Building Companion will transform how we build!---Adam Weismann and Katy Bryce, authors of Using Natural Finishes and Building with Cob



-The Natural Building Companion brings age-old building techniques and materials into the modern world. It is a comprehensive evaluation of natural building methods that shares results from up-to-date testing and monitoring, explains how these results apply to building codes, and covers new tools and resources that make installation more user-friendly and durable. By combining a wealth of information in a single volume, this book is indispensable to anyone wanting to build a healthy home using natural materials.---Will Beemer, director, The Heartwood School for the Homebuilding Crafts



-'What is a high-performance building?' Racusin and McArleton answer that question by taking a values-based approach that integrates social and ecological good with health, resource efficiency, and durability. Fusing the knowledge of the building-science community with the wisdom and experience of the best natural building practitioners, The Natural Building Companion provides plenty of detailed, how-to information to help readers create structures and communities that are, as the authors put it, 'worthy of our highest aspirations.'---Marc Rosenbaum, founder, Energysmiths



Library Journal-
Builders and educators Racusin and McArleton bring all considerations of green construction to light. Their writing is articulate and their explanations are in-depth, but they provide little how-to. Chapters encompass a wide variety of natural construction methods and materials. The planning sections really shine. Verdict: This guide stands out for the wealth of information it provides on green construction basics and planning. A solid addition to building collections.



Choice-
"Natural building is broader in its approach and scope than green building," state Racusin and McArleton (both, Yestermorrow Design/Build School instructors) in The Natural Building Companion. The volume's 21 chapters, which cover topics ranging from soil and acoustics to straw bale and energy electricity, are divided into three parts: 'The Context for Natural Building, ' 'Building Science and Performance, ' and 'Natural Building Practices.' The natural techniques described all speak to broader concerns about better, healthier ways of building, intended to eliminate volatile organic compound (VOC) off-gassing; and to create living environments that are designed and built as if climate mattered. These approaches also aim to reduce buildings' reliance on expensive and energy-consuming mechanical systems for maintaining comfortable living conditions. On a more detailed level, the authors delve into product ingredients, e.g., lime in mortars. They even supply recipes for finishes. Their view is that designing and building shelter to meet a wide range of human needs and local environmental conditions need not be a luxury. An additional bonus is an instructional DVD that allows readers to visualize many of the techniques the authors discuss. This book is an excellent hands-on companion to any and all books on architecture. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above; general readers.



"A thorough treatment of both the context for and specifics of natural building, this book is a wealth of resources all in one place. Though geared to the Atlantic Northeast, there is still more than enough here to make it a must-read for natural builders everywhere."--Bruce King, author of Design of Straw Bale Buildings and Buildings of Earth and Straw



"Fun. Easy to Read. Details that are useful in just about any climate, but particularly in cold climates. As the title clearly states, this book is a true 'companion' to take along on one's natural building journey. A well-thought-out account of Jacob and Ace's experiences and the methods they have evolved over the years. One of the best natural building books published in recent years."--Bill Steen, coauthor, The Straw Bale House



"The Natural Building Companion is a joy to read. The approach is holistic, the style is generous, and the authors gracefully balance technical details, beautiful spaces, and big ecological questions. This book empowers the reader to make choices that matter-for their own home and for the health of our planet."--Paul Lacinski, coauthor of Serious Straw Bale



"This excellent and thoroughly researched book reflects the progression of natural building. It eloquently expresses the beautiful marriage between experience and experimentation, fact and anecdote, science and soul. Deva and Ace have built us a much needed bridge between natural building and green building. The Natural Building Companion will transform how we build!"--Adam Weismann and Katy Bryce, authors of Using Natural Finishes and Building with Cob



"The Natural Building Companion brings age-old building techniques and materials into the modern world. It is a comprehensive evaluation of natural building methods that shares results from up-to-date testing and monitoring, explains how these results apply to building codes, and covers new tools and resources that make installation more user-friendly and durable. By combining a wealth of information in a single volume, this book is indispensable to anyone wanting to build a healthy home using natural materials."--Will Beemer, director, The Heartwood School for the Homebuilding Crafts



"'What is a high-performance building?' Racusin and McArleton answer that question by taking a values-based approach that integrates social and ecological good with health, resource efficiency, and durability. Fusing the knowledge of the building-science community with the wisdom and experience of the best natural building practitioners, The Natural Building Companion provides plenty of detailed, how-to information to help readers create structures and communities that are, as the authors put it, 'worthy of our highest aspirations.'"--Marc Rosenbaum, founder, Energysmiths

About the Author

Jacob Deva Racusin is co-owner of New Frameworks Natural Building, a Vermont-based contracting and consulting business specializing in the integration of natural materials, holistic design principles, an intentional process to create high-performance structures of beauty. Jacob also teaches a series of natural building courses through the Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Warren, Vermont. He has helped to develop the Natural Building Intensive Certificate Program, a twelve-week-long building education program in which a community of students build an entire structure in a real-world environment from start to finish in a curricular setting. Jacob has served as program director from 2008-09. Jacob is a member of Seven Generations Natural Builders, a natural building education collective that offers training in natural building technologies across the world. He is also a Certified Passive House Consultant. Ace McArleton is co-owner of New Frameworks Natural Building, LLC, a Vermont-based contracting and consulting business specializing in the integration of natural materials, holistic design principles, an intentional process to create high-performance structures of beauty. Ace teaches at Yestermorrow Design/Build School, both within the Natural Building Intensive Certificate Program and in the general curriculum, and offers workshops on straw bale and natural building to diverse groups throughout the United States. Ace participates in professional organizations such as Natural Builders Northeast and the Timber Framers Guild.

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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars 13 reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The BEST, Comprehensive, Up-To-Date natural building book for Northern Climates 11 Oct. 2012
By DanFink - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As an owner-builder of my own strawbale/timberframe hybrid cabin, this book was an invaluable resource. For someone like me with little prior experience and expertise, I thumbed my way through dozens of books about natural building principles in general, and plenty more offering detailed and specific construction methods and techniques. This book contains outstanding information on not only the broad level, but it also provides up-to-date, nitty gritty details on the how-to for specific natural building methods.

Specifically, their chapter on strawbale wall systems for cold and wet northern climates is unbeatable. While more and more books on strawbaling are published every year, almost none go into much depth on the proper details needed to protect a strawbale building in cold wet climates. Serious Straw Bale by Paul Lacinski and Michel Bergeron is an exception to this, but in the 12 years since it was published the available information on strawbaling has grown substantially, bringing forth various advances in building systems and designs. The Natural Building Companion brings the literature on strawbaling in climates like this back up to date in a clear and concise manner, detailing innovations in design as well as new methods used by professionals in the field. In addition, I found their chapter on Natural Plasters extremely helpful and thorough.

The DVD that comes included with the book is an incredible resource as well. To be able to see visually what they talk about in detail in the book allows for a fuller understanding, and can make all the difference for people who hope to be practitioners of some of these methods and practices. Ace and Deva are clear throughout the video, and are able to show us applications of what they talk about in various real life situations.

This book is an invaluable addition to the Natural Building compendium, no matter what climate you live in. Whether you're a builder, a designer, a homeowner, or just simply interested in the subject, I think The Natural Building Companion will prove to be one of your greatest resources.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding 24 Mar. 2013
By DUNCAN LYON DODD - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Without qualification the best natural building book I have read. I loved the level of detail and the clarity of the text. This is a book written by people with deep experience of their craft for people who want to actually build themselves.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Resource for Natural Building in the Northeastern US 18 Oct. 2012
By Kelly Hart - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The Natural Building Companion: A Comprehensive Guide to Integrative Design and Construction, by Jacob Deva Racusin and Ace McArleton, published in 2012 by Chelsea Green Publishing is a book with a rare degree of detail on the topics covered. It is an extremely valuable resource for those interested in actually building with the materials that it covers, which are primarily wood, straw, earth and stone. The experience and focus of the authors is on appropriate techniques for the climate of the Northeastern United States. This book would make an excellent text book, and indeed the authors are associated with Yestermorrow, the design/build school in Vermont.

It begins with a thorough investigation of the context for natural building, especially in the Northeast; ecological factors, proper siting for buildings, the geology of mineral building materials, as well as local plant and animal products, are all covered with great detail.

The next section dives into the science and performance of building technologies, dealing first with structural issues related to straw bale and mass walls. Thermal performance strategies for natural building are investigated with a lot of corroborating data from actual testing the authors have done.

A whole chapter is devoted to issues related to moisture and how it affects buildings. How to keep excess moisture out of buildings, the importance of breathable walls, how to provide good drainage around buildings, and the effectiveness of rain screen design is explored. Mitigating the risk of fire and insect damage is also discussed.

How do you approach making proper design choices in the first place, taking into account the need for balancing cost, time and quality? Where are your priorities in this regard? They point out that non-standard construction often takes more time, and thus costs more, but the end product may be of higher quality.

One of the best chapters in my opinion is devoted to foundations for buildings, with some of the clearest illustrations I've seen for exactly how various types of foundations are actually made. These cover frost wall foundations using AAC blocks, insulated concrete forms, rubble trench, frost-protected shallow foundations, pole and pier, and rammed tires. A chapter on various framing methods for natural buildings focuses on post and beam, timber framing, pole framing, stud wall framing, and even steel framing.

Exploring natural insulative wall systems, such as straw bale, is really at the heart of this book. It goes into great detail on this subject, almost to the point of being a separate book within a book. Along with straw bale, both straw-clay and woodchip-clay are covered.

The use of earth and stone to construct natural mass wall structures comprises another chapter. This includes the use of adobe, wattle and daub, stone, rammed earth, rammed tire, and earthbag. There is a side bar in this chapter that describes cordwood, and I feel that their treatment of this well established natural building technique is unfortunately unduly negative.

There is an excellent section on natural plasters and paints and how to mix and apply them. This is one of the best presentations of a subject that is frequently skirted in books that I've seen. A range of appropriate roofs for natural buildings is covered, and so are flooring options. To finish the book, available choices for mechanical systems and utilities are explained.

Altogether, I feel that this book is well worth its hefty price ($60), given that it not only provides such a wealth of detail and analysis, but it is also packaged with a comprehensive DVD of instructional material that dovetails with the content. I give the book high marks indeed.
0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Natural Building book 10 May 2013
By Madeline Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Looks like a great book. Haven't read it all yet . Informative. Looking forward to having some time to absorb it.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of a kind. 14 Oct. 2012
By Stephanie Naas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The world of natural building is still a sacred art, in my opinion. Perhaps this is because the craft is still one that has only been mastered by a small community of professionals throughout the world. With that, comes an important decision: which book do I buy? Although one may browse a typical bookstore and be lucky to find a 'how to' book on natural building, most of the guidebooks that exist today do not come close to rivaling the breadth and integrity of The Natural Building Companion. The writing and the content is a clean, thorough, smart, dynamic presentation of work that characterizes this book.

It's a challenging feat to not only be excellent teachers in a workshop setting, but to extend that same excellence into a practical guidebook. Ace and Deva are remarkable teachers and mentors. They present adaptable teaching styles for every learner, from novice to professional. That same adaptivity, eagerness to promote knowledge and genuine enthusiam for their craft are not only palpable qualities of working with them one-on-one...they are the qualities that define their book.

There is not much left out of this book, it's busting at the seams with technicalities but is quite easy to read. Its a 'start to finish' book in that it covers most everything. This will be your central integral guidebook during the building process. Other books will likely accumulate some dust. If you are a person ready to build your own natural home, this literary companion will make you feel as if the authors are right there to help you. It's really that good.
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