With nothing more than hand tools, friends, family and a desire to avoid an expensive, unsustainable home, Simon Dale built his own. As a staunch advocate for low impact living, and with only a meager income, 32 year-old Dale decided to build a home in a hillside in Wales, one that he and his family could own outright and was sustainably hand-built directly in the middle of the forest. The design has an uncanny resemblance to Hobbit homes in the Lord of the Rings films, which has contributed to its rise in popularity.
Despite his lack of experience in both carpentry and architecture, Dale was able to build his home in only 4 months. Using mostly wood, materials from the surrounding forest and a few other materials, the home is environmentally friendly to the max. On his website, simondale.net, he explains how he achieved this through his design, using many techniques popular in natural building designs far more conventional than this:
- Dug into hillside for low visual impact and shelter
- Stone and mud from diggings used for retaining walls, foundations etc.
- Frame of oak thinnings (spare wood) from surrounding woodland
- Reciprocal roof rafters are structurally and aesthaetically fantastic and very easy to do
- Straw bales in floor, walls and roof for super-insulation and easy building
- Plastic sheet and mud/turf roof for low impact and ease
- Lime plaster on walls is breathable and low energy to manufacture (compared to cement)
- Reclaimed (scrap) wood for floors and fittings
- Anything you could possibly want is in a rubbish pile somewhere (windows, burner, plumbing, wiring…)
- Woodburner for heating – renewable and locally plentiful
- Flue goes through big stone/plaster lump to retain and slowly release heat
- Fridge is cooled by air coming underground through foundations
- Skylight in roof lets in natural feeling light
- Solar panels for lighting, music and computing
- Water by gravity from nearby spring
- Compost toilet
- Roof water collects in pond for garden etc.
For some cool women building similar “cob” houses, check out Canada’s Mud Girls!
For Dale and his family, it is much more than just a cheaper, simpler way of living, it is proving that we can do something about this ecological crisis. The woodland surrounding their house is a place where they can do ecological woodland management and set up a forest garden. They acknowledged that it was hard work, but it was all worth it for their family.