The spirit of the Eco-Build

As the bite in the air intensifies and high winds whip up the forest around us, our thoughts at Embercombe are turning to one of the most basic of human needs – shelter. Making sure our community is warm, dry and safe is high on our priorities before the first frosts fall. Ensuring that all our buildings work in harmony with our land is even higher.

Achieving this balance between human needs and the needs of the natural world around us is a challenge we embrace wholeheartedly. In Dec our build week will give a team of enthusiastic volunteers the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and raise a building up out of the ground. In the experience, we know they will build something unseen too. Community, a sense of belonging, shared ownership and joy in the experience of creation.

laying foundations“Like all the best things at Embercombe, build week pulls together so many skills and talents of our community to create the space we love. Whether we live here or visit as a friend or for a program, the experience of creating something together is as surprising as it is simple. Eating together, washing up together, sharing the morning meeting – these things combine with the opportunity to learn real skills.” Jenny Joseph, Volunteering Coordinator, Embercombe.

Eco-building is a term that covers all kinds of structures from yurts to hobbit houses, timber framed structures to repurposed shipping containers.

In general, eco-builds use locally sourced and sustainable materials that have a low impact on the environment. Often materials that would otherwise be waste, such as car tyres, glass bottles or aluminium cans are worked with.

Natural renewable resources such as timber, bamboo, earth, clay and straw take the place of industrial materials. Second hand resources found at recycling centres, on gumtree or craigslist cut costs and are sustainable, ecologically sound choices.

Eco-builders also think about how the structure they build will work in harmony with the land base on which it is built. Living roofs, passive solar, rainwater collection systems, rocket mass heaters and excellent insulation may all be part of the design.

Here at Embercombe we have been installing solar panels wherever possible over the summer and regularly review the water use and energy consumption across the site.


It is not just the materials that make a build sustainable or ‘eco’. The ways in which the building is raised have just as much impact on the environment. Limiting the use of power tools, motorised vehicles and electric powered machinery all have an environmental impact. It’s true that to use truly sustainable building techniques does take longer and require more labour hours, but there is a growing movement of skilled and unskilled laborers willing to do the work this way. is an exchange. In return for volunteer help, self-build project hosts are encouraged to offer food, accommodation and opportunities to share sustainable self-build techniques.

“The fun thing about thePOOSH is that the website was started by a group of friends looking to learn and experience more about natural building. After a year of POOSHin’ ourselves while creating the site, many of us have set up our own projects, homes and communities based on the skills we learned during that period. For me, thePOOSH is about getting out there, getting dirty and realising that new found interests can have one of the most significant impacts on your life to date!”

Jim Self, Co-founder, Innovator, thePOOSH

If you have ever wanted to be part of an eco-build or harbor a desire to build your own home, you are not alone. Build week bookings at Embercombe are open now, and you’ll meet a whole community of like minded co-creators, from the expert to the total beginner. Could this be the start of your own eco-build vision? What could YOU create with just a little help from your friends?

13754594693_851b2c0e15_z“There is a primal desire for shelter. I work to bring the initial vision of a self-build to life, exploring all the ways this can be done in harmony with the location.

“Having a home that you are a part of and is a part of you is within the grasp of everyone (with the caveat of land ownership). Everyone wants shelter and natural materials are very easy to adapt without needing particular skills, it is a question of putting the time in.

“Not outsourcing something as personal as your home to an external or corporate world is an empowering experience. In addition, when people have the confidence to build their own home using natural, local resources they become part of the local economy.

“The whole planning system is opening up in ways that have never been done before to genuine self-builders who plan to live in their homes. I welcome the change – the more people who understand it the better.”

Nick Squire, architectural designer, Passive house eco builds in greenfield sites.