Community Papers

Bare-handed building

Kata Polano believes the modern method of building isn
Kata Polano believes the modern method of building isn't sustainable.
— image credit: Will Johnson photo

When asked what she would say to people cynical of the natural building trend becoming popular in the Kootenays, Kata Polano’s answer was quite simple: “The modern method isn’t sustainable.”

She cited nasty composites, the environmental impact of transporting materials and the cost-cutting techniques used in typical buildings.

Natural building, though more expensive and time-consuming, allows the builder to feel like they’re a part of the process and allows them to pour more attention and love into their structures.

One of the main perks of natural building, according to Polano, is the longevity of the structures.

Whereas normal buildings have a life expectancy of 50 to 60 years, there are earthen structures worldwide that have been standing for hundreds of years.

“There’s nothing here you couldn’t do with your bare hands,” she said.

Polano started her career as an artist, typically working with jewelry and paint. She said she decided to learn about natural building because she wanted to create something more useful.

“And what’s more useful than shelter?” she asked. “Everyone needs a house.”

Polano, along with builder Sean Breathnatch, hosted a six-part workshop series that started back in May.

Participants learned about framing, how to construct a sauna and the practice of light clay infill. They also gained hands-on skills in how to locate and use local materials.

There were also classes that covered how to build a rocket mass heater, a high-efficiency wood-burning stove from barrels and cob.

“It’s pretty amazing that after just a few weekends, participants will be ready to build small natural saunas on their own,” said Paula Snow, owner of Snow’s Hillhouse Microfarm. “I can’t wait to see all the new saunas springing up around the region.”

The workshops, which wrap up on July 21 are being held at Snow’s permaculture educational centre located at Six Mile. The land there has been organically farmed for the last 16 years.

“We have had a great response so far and look forward to developing more courses in the future.”

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