One of the many benefits of natural building is that they are highly customizable. You can build any shape or size home that you could possibly want. Since you can build any shape or size, this allows you to stick a house in any old awkward place you have on your homestead. As a side note: the idea that you can stick a house anywhere, regardless of your uneven landscape, also allows you to buy a cheaper piece of land because nobody wants an uneven piece of land to build on (that’s what we did).
You can also use the landscape to your advantage, to make your home more energy efficient. I have already mentioned a South facing house to increase your passive solar gain. How else can we use the landscape to improve our house?
The spot we chose to build is just South of a hill where our current home is. Since this house is uphill, we can set up the rainwater system on the roof of the old house. The water that is collected in the rain barrels can flow easily down hill to the new house and give us some water pressure with out buying a pump. The pipe will have to be burried to prevent freezing, but this should be a really simple system to set up.
Another benefit of building next to a hill is that the hill will block some of the icy winter wind that could come in from the North side of the house, making it easier to keep the house warm. There will be a windbreak of trees on the South side of the house, back just far enough to let the sun shine on the house.
A root cellar can also be easily dug into the side of the hill near the house. Having this outdoor cool food storage will allow us to store more food without taking up all the room in the house, which is what happens now. The side of the hill means we have less to dig out, and it already is easy to get to because the entrance will be at door level, no stairs.
When we had the property logged, pathways were formed all throughout to be able to get the trees out. Not that this is part of the natural landscape, but the paths were put there by someone who wants the path of least resistence to get his work done efficiently. The paths do flow smoothly throughout, and we were able to find a great home site along the path so we do not have extra work to do to get to the house site.
Walking along the path, you will also find many of the hemlock trees we plan to build with. Many of the trees are up hill from the house, along the pathway. These will be the easier trees to get to the site just because we can drag them down hill instead of up. And I want to plant my food forest along the pathways, so I need to clear this area anyway.
The landscape also has quite a few low areas where it tends to turn into a swamp when it rains. We can use these areas to add things on to the outside of the house. For example, the low areas can be dug out further to be used as ponds. A pond is useful to store water for the house, be a home for ducks, to cool off in the summer heat, or even to raise fish.
This is basically the last of the planning for the house. I have one more post to do that will talk a little bit about the house, but more the process and what we expect out of it. After that, we begin the clearing!