Sorry for the radio silence – I’ve been away for 10 days on an Adobe building workshop! Adobe is an ancient way of building houses using earth. I had read about it years ago, and then I’d seen a couple of buildings in Chiang Mai and it started me wondering. I wonder what an adobe house feels like to live in. I wonder if it’s difficult to do? Then I found a local workshop, and I had the chance to find out for myself!
The workshop was run jointly by two Chiang Mai organisations; Pun Pun and International Womens’ Partnership (IWP). Pun Pun is an organic farm about an hour from Chiang Mai, where they teach anyone who wants to learn about organic farming, saving seed, cooking as well as natural building techniques. They aim to help people become self sufficient by demonstrating a successful alternative to chemical farming, hosting workshops and teaching both local and international volunteers. Find out more about them here, current courses here and facebook here.
IWP supports grassroots womens’ activism in Thailand and Asia. They have a base about an hour from Chiang Mai where they run workshops and retreats. To date they have held five natural building workshops for women, and have built adobe buildings ranging from a modest library to a huge guest house! The building I worked on is to be a retreat house -somewhere that women can go to rest and refuel when they need to. For more on the retreat see here and to see their current fund raising or make a donation see here.
In the spirit of sisterhood, we were all women, volunteers and course leaders, catering and crew. The ages ranged from three to, well, I don’t know how old, but the point is anyone of any age can do this! Few of us had had experience in any sort of building, but we built a house in 8 days. Not a shabby little bungalow either – but a 6 by 6.5 m house with two bedrooms and a bathroom. The walls were 2.5m tall, and we installed 6 windows and 4 doors too. The roof will be done by contractors, however we installed the roof beams that they will attach it to.
Of course there are techniques to follow and mistakes to avoid, but all in all building with adobe is wonderfully simple. There are no harsh chemicals so you can literally jump right in, using the earth around you, sand and rice husks and straw. If you want to get fancy you can embed bottles in the wall to create your own star – lights, or decorate with relief patterns and carved plaster! It’s as much or as simple as you make it!
All the houses in the photos above are at IWP or Pun Pun. More photos and details on the house that we built in the next post!