A Natural Building involves a range of building systems and materials that place major emphasis on sustainability. The focus is on durability and the use of minimally processed, plentiful or renewable resources, as well as those that, while recycled or salvaged, produce healthy living environments and maintain indoor air quality. Natural Building tends to rely on human labor, more than technology. It depends on local ecology, geology and climate; on the character of the particular building site, and on the needs and personalities of the builders and users.
The basis of Natural Building is the need to lessen the environmental impact of buildings and other supporting systems, without sacrificing comfort or health. The orientation of a building, the utilization of local climate and site conditions, the emphasis on natural ventilation through design, fundamentally lessen operational costs and positively impact the environmental. Building compactly and minimizing the ecological footprint is a goal, as is on-site handling of energy acquisition, on-site water capture, alternate sewage treatment and water reuse.
There are as many Natural Building technologies in the world as there are climates and bioregions. Most rely on a handful of elemental materials: earth (clay), wood, stone, sand and straw. Based on the climate the building must coexist with, these materials can be combined in any number of ways to produce a natural structure.
At Geeli Mitti Farms, some of the natural and alternative building technologies being employed are:
Permaculture is modeled on the relationships found in nature. The term was coined by Bill Mollison (permanent agriculture and permanent culture). More specifically it is the design of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have diversity and stability while considering the existing environment and natural ecosystems. It has 3 core principles and 12 design focuses. Geeli Mitti Farms is designed by founder, Shagun Singh, who did her PDC (Permaculture Design Certification) with reknowned PDC teacher, Rico Zook.
True permaculture, is not just organic farming – the ideology in practise means harmonious integration of environment and people – providing their food, shelter, and energy in a sustainable way. In permaculture, the people contribute in their daily life toward the production of their food and other needs.
Here’s an interesting animation to show the difference between Agriculture vs Permaculture. You don’t even need to understand the language!
The focus of the Training Department currently is on teaching the local villages and everyone else on how to build one’s own house or any structure in fact through different tested natural building techniques from around the globe such as Earthbags, Cob, Earthship, Stone formwork, Rammed earth, Adobe, Wattle and Daub, Logs…Natural Structures that use the sun, wind and rain for creating highly energy efficient, carbon neutral, stunning abodes.
In the next few months, there will be workshops, for both urban and rural settings, to grow your own food organically, make compost with kitchen waste, keep chickens as pets and for eggs, making your own bread, jams, jellies, sauces, pickles, pizzas. We will also be holding Permaculture Design Certification Courses. Since fitness, of the body and mind, is important to our well-being, watch out for the yoga and martial arts opportunities.
The last workshop in October/November’16 where participants learned to build an earthquake proof home of Earthbags saw a lot of enthusiasm and fun. And now the Cob Cottage Build, coming up in March’17, is a unique experiment building with mud and straw with an SUV as entrance and a living roof with live plants. Participants are coming from across the World to learn and experience staying in a beautiful village setting. You can find out more about it here.
One of the key concepts we focus on is to get over the societal myth and fear of doubting yourself and assuming that you need to be a trained architect or engineer to build your own house or that it is impractical and difficult to live sustainably.
Attending one workshop and being passionate is all the training you need. We want to educate everyone on the many advantages of moving towards a more sustainable lifestyle and how these skills make you a more grounded person. Whether you live in an urban or rural setting is immaterial.
Community Produce & Self Sufficiency
Building a community takes time. But like Permaculture, once you’ve crossed the barrier and come together, it is a powerful force for collective good and small self sufficient communities is what will save this world.
We are actively working towards partnering with the households of the village towards starting to produce locally, sustainably. It’s a long way and a lot to be done but here are some of the things that work has already started on:
- replacing mud chulhas with more efficient rocket stoves through trials. This reduces the firewood consumption to less than half and improves health by controlling the CO release through smoke
- identifying extra rooms in village homes for homestays that give an authentic village life exposure to the traveller and source of income for the family hosting
- trials with better seeds and using desi seeds so seed saving can happen. Currently hybrid seeds are being bought from market with chemical treatments and low yield
- Getting together the women to start production of pure herbal ayurvedic dhoop, agarbatti, dung logs as alternative to firewood. Also partnering with local artisans for sale of handcrafted décor like ‘dhatu’ bells
We do not realize how big an impact our buying choices really have. The simplest products of daily use have a huge embodied carbon footprint and yes choosing to consciously buy local breaks the vicious cycle. Take a look at this simple diagram about a packet of tea, produced locally by a community vs bought off a big supermarket.