The Basics of Natural Building: Bringing Low Carbon Homes to the Forefront of Energy Efficient Construction


(This article was written for Community Rebuilds by Kaitlin Krull of

As the construction industry develops and changes, the focus on energy efficiency and environmental consciousness continues to grow. While technology and home automation remain a priority for the vast majority of energy conscious contractors, a small but significant number of construction professionals are instead turning back to the earth to minimize carbon emissions in buildings. At Home Improvement Leads, we’re impressed with the ingenuity of the natural building movement and love their low-tech approach to low carbon living. If terms such as ‘low carbon’ and ‘natural building’ seem foreign to you, don’t worry: we’ve outlined the basics of some of these energy efficient building practices to help you understand their concepts.

What are ‘low carbon’ buildings?

While the technical specifications of low carbon buildings vary according to their size and purpose, their basic principles remain the same. Low carbon buildings are made to be energy efficient, thereby saving money and reducing carbon emissions at the same time.

According to the energy experts at the Royal Institute of British Architects, there are six principles of low carbon design:

  1. Understanding energy use in the specific building type
  2. Using the form and fabric of a building to minimize its energy demand
  3. Focusing on insulation and air tightness to maximize energy efficiency
  4. Using highly efficient building services and low carbon fuels
  5. Managing energy use in the building (via smart meters, for example)
  6. Making use of renewable energy whenever possible (solar, hydro, wind power, etc)

By following these guidelines during both the construction process as well as everyday operation, owners of low carbon buildings can expect to significantly minimize their greenhouse gas emissions and monthly energy bills.

Building and maintaining a low carbon building is the first step on the net-zero energy—or carbon neutral—pathway. Net-zero energy use is a goal towards which energy officials around the world strive, and it creates buildings that produce as much energy as they use. While the ultimate goal of worldwide carbon neutrality is still relatively far off, the hope is that the regular practice of lowering carbon emissions in both industrial and residential settings will inspire contractors and building owners to increase their energy efficient practices.

The natural building movement

Natural building is a method of construction that uses low-impact building styles and techniques to provide homes that are ultra energy efficient and sustainable. Rather than using mass-produced, man-made substances, natural buildings incorporate natural materials such as wood, clay, straw, stone, and natural plasters during the construction process.

The goals behind natural building practices and low carbon buildings are very similar: natural building is all about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and taking less from the earth while still providing comfortable and safe living environments. The sustainable practices used in the construction of both low carbon buildings and natural buildings have inspired a movement of environmental consciousness in construction.

Organizations such as Community Rebuilds model the environmentally friendly practices of natural buildings by involving others, particularly young people, in the various processes of natural home construction. The focus of Community Rebuilds in particular is to build energy efficient housing, improve housing conditions affordably, and educate others on sustainability. This is done through their partnership with students and young professionals who are concerned about the environment and want to find ways to minimize the impact we have on the earth.



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