Chelsea Green Publishing

The Natural Building Companion

Pages:416 pages
Book Art:Full-color illustrations throughout
Size: 8 x 10 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781603583398
Pub. Date May 01, 2012
eBook: 9781603583404
Pub. Date May 01, 2012

The Natural Building Companion

A Comprehensive Guide to Integrative Design and Construction

Building & Energy

Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
May 01, 2012


Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
May 01, 2012

$49.95 $39.96

Natural buildings not only bring satisfaction to their makers and joy to their occupants, they also leave the gentlest footprint on the environment. In this complete reference to natural building philosophy, design, and technique, Jacob Deva Racusin and Ace McArleton walk builders through planning and construction, offering step-by-step instructions on:

  • siting and site analysis
  • choosing materials
  • integrating basic structural considerations into a design
  • strategies for heating/cooling efficiency and moisture management
  • planning for acoustics
  • developing an integrative design
  • navigating budgeting, code compliance, and project management
  • creating the foundation, wall system, roof, and floors
  • selecting and making plasters and paints
  • evaluating options for mechanical and utility systems
  • protecting against fire and insects
  • integrating structures within landscape, climate, and human communities

...and more

Applicable to building in climates that are cold and wet, hot and dry, or somewhere in-between, The Natural Building Companion provides the tools necessary to understand basic principles of building science, including structural and thermal engineering, and hydrodynamics. This guide offers thorough, up-to-date, and advanced installation details and performance characteristics of straw-bale, straw-clay, woodchip-clay, and cellulose wall systems, as well as earthen and stone wall systems and a variety of framing, roofing, flooring, mechanical system, and finishing options. This fully-illustrated volume informs professionals making the transition from conventional building, homeowners embarking on their own construction, or green builders who want comprehensive guidance on natural-building options. A State-of-the-Art Resource for Natural Builders The Natural Building Companion is a part of The Yestermorrow Design/Build Library and includes an instructional DVD.


"A thorough treatment of both the context for and specifics of natural building, this book is a wealth of resources all in one place. Though geared to the Atlantic Northeast, there is still more than enough here to make it a must-read for natural builders everywhere."--Bruce King, author of Design of Straw Bale Buildings and Buildings of Earth and Straw

"Fun. Easy to Read. Details that are useful in just about any climate, but particularly in cold climates. As the title clearly states, this book is a true 'companion' to take along on one's natural building journey. A well-thought-out account of Jacob and Ace's experiences and the methods they have evolved over the years. One of the best natural building books published in recent years."--Bill Steen, coauthor, The Straw Bale House

"The Natural Building Companion is a joy to read. The approach is holistic, the style is generous, and the authors gracefully balance technical details, beautiful spaces, and big ecological questions. This book empowers the reader to make choices that matter-for their own home and for the health of our planet."--Paul Lacinski, coauthor of Serious Straw Bale

"This excellent and thoroughly researched book reflects the progression of natural building. It eloquently expresses the beautiful marriage between experience and experimentation, fact and anecdote, science and soul. Deva and Ace have built us a much needed bridge between natural building and green building. The Natural Building Companion will transform how we build!"--Adam Weismann and Katy Bryce, authors of Using Natural Finishes and Building with Cob

"The Natural Building Companion brings age-old building techniques and materials into the modern world. It is a comprehensive evaluation of natural building methods that shares results from up-to-date testing and monitoring, explains how these results apply to building codes, and covers new tools and resources that make installation more user-friendly and durable. By combining a wealth of information in a single volume, this book is indispensable to anyone wanting to build a healthy home using natural materials."--Will Beemer, director, The Heartwood School for the Homebuilding Crafts

"'What is a high-performance building?' Racusin and McArleton answer that question by taking a values-based approach that integrates social and ecological good with health, resource efficiency, and durability. Fusing the knowledge of the building-science community with the wisdom and experience of the best natural building practitioners, The Natural Building Companion provides plenty of detailed, how-to information to help readers create structures and communities that are, as the authors put it, 'worthy of our highest aspirations.'"--Marc Rosenbaum, founder, Energysmiths

Library Journal-
Builders and educators Racusin and McArleton bring all considerations of green construction to light. Their writing is articulate and their explanations are in-depth, but they provide little how-to. Chapters encompass a wide variety of natural construction methods and materials. The planning sections really shine. Verdict: This guide stands out for the wealth of information it provides on green construction basics and planning. A solid addition to building collections.

"Natural building is broader in its approach and scope than green building," state Racusin and McArleton (both, Yestermorrow Design/Build School instructors) in The Natural Building Companion. The volume's 21 chapters, which cover topics ranging from soil and acoustics to straw bale and energy electricity, are divided into three parts: ‘The Context for Natural Building,’ ‘Building Science and Performance,’ and ‘Natural Building Practices.’ The natural techniques described all speak to broader concerns about better, healthier ways of building, intended to eliminate volatile organic compound (VOC) off-gassing; and to create living environments that are designed and built as if climate mattered. These approaches also aim to reduce buildings' reliance on expensive and energy-consuming mechanical systems for maintaining comfortable living conditions. On a more detailed level, the authors delve into product ingredients, e.g., lime in mortars. They even supply recipes for finishes. Their view is that designing and building shelter to meet a wide range of human needs and local environmental conditions need not be a luxury. An additional bonus is an instructional DVD that allows readers to visualize many of the techniques the authors discuss. This book is an excellent hands-on companion to any and all books on architecture. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above; general readers.


Jacob Deva Racusin

Jacob Deva Racusin is co-owner of New Frameworks Natural Building, a Vermont-based contracting and consulting business specializing in the integration of natural materials, holistic design principles, an intentional process to create high-performance structures of beauty. Jacob also teaches a series of natural building courses through the Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Warren, Vermont. He has helped to develop the Natural Building Intensive Certificate Program, a twelve-week-long building education program in which a community of students build an entire structure in a real-world environment from start to finish in a curricular setting. Jacob has served as program director from 2008-09. Jacob is a member of Seven Generations Natural Builders, a natural building education collective that offers training in natural building technologies across the world. He is also a Certified Passive House Consultant.

Ace McArleton

Ace McArleton is co-owner of New Frameworks Natural Building, LLC, a Vermont-based contracting and consulting business specializing in the integration of natural materials, holistic design principles, an intentional process to create high-performance structures of beauty. Ace teaches at Yestermorrow Design/Build School, both within the Natural Building Intensive Certificate Program and in the general curriculum, and offers workshops on straw bale and natural building to diverse groups throughout the United States. Ace participates in professional organizations such as Natural Builders Northeast and the Timber Framers Guild.


October 17, 2015

Jacob Deva Racusin and Ace McArleton at the Art of Natural Building

202 Galisteo Street, Kingston, NM, 87501 | Ace McArleton
Jacob and Ace will speak at 5:00 PM on Saturday, October 17th about the future of green building at the Collected Works Bookstore in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Copies of "The Natural Building Companion" will be available for sale and signing at this event on ecological and healthy construction, which is sponsored by the Collected Works Bookstore and Builders Without Borders.

See all Events by this Author


Yestermorrow Summer Lecture Series 2012 - Ace McArleton & Jacob Deva Racusin

The Natural Building Companion DVD Trailer

How to Evaluate Airtightness in a Natural Building Using a Blower Door Test

How to Work with Straw Bales from The Natural Building Companion

How to Make Paint from Milk Curds

How to Do a Ribbon Test to Evaluate Site Soil for Natural Building

Timber Framing Techniques


Serious Straw Bale

Serious Straw Bale

By Paul Lacinski and Michel Bergeron

In 1994, when Chelsea Green published The Straw Bale House, the response from many people was a loud, "Huh?!"

Those days are gone. With more than 100,000 copies sold, and straw bale projects underway in most regions of North America, we've entered a new era. Even building-code officials and insurance companies now look favorably upon straw bale buildings, with their extraordinary energy efficiency and wise use of agricultural waste for construction materials.

Bergeron and Lacinski's new book Serious Straw Bale is the first to look carefully at the specific design considerations critical to success with a straw bale building in more extreme climates-where seasonal changes in temperature, precipitation, and humidity create special stresses that builders must understand and address. The authors draw upon years of experience with natural materials and experimental techniques, and present a compelling rationale for building with straw-one of nature's most resilient, available, and affordable byproducts.

For skeptics and true believers, this book will prove to be the latest word.

  • Thorough explanations of how moisture and temperature affect buildings in seasonal climates, with descriptions of the unique capacities of straw and other natural materials to provide warmth, quiet, and comfort year-round.
  • Comprehensive comparison of the two main approaches to straw bale construction: "Nebraska-style," where bales bear the weight of the roof, and framed structures, where bales provide insulation.
  • Detailed advice-including many well-considered cautions-for contractors, owner-builders, and designers, following each stage of a bale-building process.

This is a second-generation straw bale book, for those seeking serious information to meet serious challenges while adventuring in the most fun form of construction to come along in several centuries.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

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Serious Straw Bale

Paul Lacinski, Michel Bergeron

Paperback $34.95

Adobe Homes for All Climates

Adobe Homes for All Climates

By Lisa Schroder and Vince Ogletree

The lay-up of adobe bricks is an easy, forgiving way to achieve a solid masonry-wall system. Contrary to stereotypes, adobe is perfectly adaptable for use in cold, wet climates as well as hot and dry ones, and for areas prone to earthquakes. With its efficient use of energy, natural resources for construction, and minimal effort for long-term maintenance, it’s clear that the humble adobe brick is an ideal option for constructing eco-friendly structures throughout the world.

The book is ideal both for first-time do-it-yourselfers and for experienced adobe builders seeking to improve their craft. Drawing on the experience of more than fifty major adobe projects since 1993, Adobe Homes for All Climates describes Adobe Building Systems’ patented reinforcement and scaffolding systems, showing readers how to construct adobe homes more easily and safely, and with superior strength, durability, structural integrity, and aesthetic appeal, as compared to earthen homes of the past.

All aspects of adobe construction are covered, including making and laying adobe bricks, installing lintels and arches, conduits and pipes, doors and windows, top plates and bondbeams, ideal wall dimensions, adobe finishes, and other adobe construction components, such as the inexpensive use of scaffolding. These methods will produce a premium product that will meet and often exceed inspection standards.

Equipped with this manual, you will be able to obtain a building permit, make adobe bricks swiftly, and confidently lay them up. You will be able to beautifully finish your adobe walls with earth plasters creating stunning colors and outstanding light effects and create a beautiful, energy-efficient home that will last for generations to come.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

Read More

Adobe Homes for All Climates

Lisa Schroder, Vince Ogletree

Paperback $34.95

The Chelsea Green Reader

The Chelsea Green Reader

Chelsea Green, the Vermont-based independent publisher, has always had a nose for authors and subjects that are way ahead of the cultural curve, as is evident in this new anthology celebrating the company’s first thirty years in publishing.

The more than one hundred books represented in this collection reflect the many distinct areas in which we have published–from literature and memoirs to progressive politics, to highly practical books on green building, organic gardening and farming, food and health, and related subjects–all of which reflect our underlying philosophy: "The politics and practice of sustainable living." The Chelsea Green Reader offers a glimpse into our wide-ranging list of books and authors and to the important ideas that they express. Interesting and worth reading in their own right, the individual passages when taken as a whole trace the evolution of a highly successful small publisher–something that is almost an oxymoron in these days of corporate buyouts and multinational book groups.
From the beginning, Chelsea Green's books were nationally recognized, garnering positive reviews, accolades, and awards. We’ve published four New York Times bestsellers, and our books have set the standard for in-depth, how-to books that remain relevant years–often decades–beyond their original publication date.

"Chelsea Green was born from a single seed: the beauty of craft. Craft in writing and editing, in a story well told, or a thesis superbly expressed," writes cofounder and publisher emeritus Ian Baldwin in the book's foreword. Today, craft continues to inform all aspects of our work–design, illustration, production, sales, promotion, and beyond. It has even informed our business model: In 2012, Chelsea Green became an employee-owned company.

With the rise of the Internet, new media platforms, and a constantly shifting bookselling landscape, the future of publishing is anything but predictable. But if Chelsea Green's books prove anything, it is that, despite these challenges, there remains a hunger for new and important ideas and authors, and for the permanence and craftsmanship of the printed word. Today our ongoing mission is stronger than ever, as we launch into our next thirty years of publishing excellence.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

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The Chelsea Green Reader

Ben Watson, Ian Baldwin

Paperback $15.00

Snake Oil

Snake Oil

By Richard Heinberg

The rapid spread of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) has temporarily boosted US natural gas and oil production . . . and sparked a massive environmental backlash in communities across the country. The fossil-fuel industry is trying to sell fracking as the biggest energy development of the century, with slick promises of American energy independence and benefits to local economies. Snake Oil casts a critical eye on the oil-industry hype that has hijacked America's energy conversation. This is the first book to look at fracking from both economic and environmental perspectives, informed by the most thorough analysis of shale gas and oil drilling data ever undertaken. Is fracking the miracle cure-all to our energy ills, or a costly distraction from the necessary work of reducing our fossil-fuel dependence?

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Snake Oil

Richard Heinberg

Paperback $12.95