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


Masonry Heaters

Masonry Heaters

By Ken Matesz

Masonry Heaters is a complete guide to designing and living with one of the oldest, and yet one of the newest, heating devices. A masonry heater’s design, placement in the home, and luxurious radiant heat redefine the hearth for the modern era, turning it into a piece of the sun right inside the home. Like the feeling one gets from the sun on a spring day, the environment around a masonry heater feels fresh. The radiant heat feels better on the skin. It warms the home both gently and efficiently. In fact, the value of a masonry heater lies in its durability, quality, serviceability, dependability, and health-supporting features. And it is an investment in self-sufficiency and freedom from fossil fuels.

The book discusses different masonry heater designs, including variations extant in Europe, and explains the growth of their popularity in the United States beginning in the late 1970s. For the reader who may be familiar only with open fireplaces and metal woodstoves, Masonry Heaters will bring a new understanding and appreciation of massive heat storage and gentle-but-persistent radiant heat. Masonry heaters offer a unique comfort that is superior to that from convection heat from forced-air systems, and more personal than that offered by “radiant” floors. As Matesz demonstrates, the heat from the sun or from a masonry heater is genuine heat instead of just insulation against the loss of heat.

Those who are looking to build, add onto, or remodel a house will find comprehensive and practical advice for designing and installing a masonry heater, including detailed discussion of materials, code considerations, and many photos and illustrations. While this is not a do-it-yourself guide for building a masonry heater, it provides facts every heater builder should know. Professional contractors will find this a useful tool to consult, and homeowners considering a new method of home heating will find all they need to know about masonry heaters within these pages.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

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Masonry Heaters

Ken Matesz, Albie Barden

Paperback $39.95

The Hand-Sculpted House

The Hand-Sculpted House

By Ianto Evans and Michael G. Smith and Linda Smiley

Are you ready for the Cob Cottage? This is a building method so old and so simple that it has been all but forgotten in the rush to synthetics. A cob cottage,cobb, however, might be the ultimate expression of ecological design, a structure so attuned to its surroundings that its creators refer to it as "an ecstatic house."

The authors build a house the way others create a natural garden. They use the oldest, most available materials imaginable--earth, clay, sand, straw, and water--and blend them to redefine the future (and past) of building. Cob (the word comes from an Old English root, meaning "lump") is a mixture of non-toxic, recyclable, and often free materials. Building with cob requires no forms, no cement, and no machinery of any kind. Builders actually sculpt their structures by hand.

Building with earth is nothing new to America; the oldest structures on the continent were built with adobe bricks. Adobe, however, has been geographically limited to the Southwest. The limits of cob are defined only by the builder's imagination.
Cob offers answers regarding our role in Nature, family and society, about why we feel the ways that we do, about what's missing in our lives. Cob comes as a revelation, a key to a saner world.

Cob has been a traditional building process for millennia in Europe, even in rainy and windy climates like the British Isles, where many cob buildings still serve as family homes after hundreds of years. The technique is newly arrived to the Americas, and, as with so many social trends, the early adopters are in the Pacific Northwest.

Cob houses (or cottages, since they are always efficiently small by American construction standards) are not only compatible with their surroundings, they ARE their surroundings, literally rising up from the earth. They are full of light, energy-efficient, and cozy, with curved walls and built-in, whimsical touches. They are delightful. They are ecstatic.

Available in: Paperback

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The Hand-Sculpted House

Ianto Evans, Michael G. Smith, Linda Smiley, Deanne Bednar

Paperback $35.00

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

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Snake Oil

Richard Heinberg

Paperback $12.95

The Community-Scale Permaculture Farm

The Community-Scale Permaculture Farm

By Josh Trought

With practical examples of alternative building, renewable energy, holistic forestry, no-till gardening, hospitality management, community outreach, and more

The Community-Scale Permaculture Farm describes not only the history of the D Acres project, but its evolving principles and practices that are rooted in the land, its inhabitants, and the joy inherent in collective empowerment.

For almost twenty years, D Acres of New Hampshire has challenged and expanded the common definition of a farm. As an educational center that researches, applies, and teaches skills of sustainable living and small-scale organic farming, D Acres serves more than just a single function to its community. By turns it is a hostel for travelers to northern New England, a training center for everything from metal- and woodworking to cob building and seasonal cooking, a gathering place for music, poetry, joke-telling, and potluck meals, and much more.

While this book provides a wide spectrum of practical information on the physical systems designed into a community-scale homestead, Trought also reviews the economics and organizational particulars that D Acres has experimented with over the years.

The D Acres model envisions a way to devise a sustainable future by building a localized economy that provides more than seasonal produce, a handful of eggs, and green appliances. With the goal of perennial viability for humanity within their ecosystem, D Acres is attempting an approach to sustainability that encompasses practical, spiritual, and ethical components. In short: They are trying to create a rural community ecology that evolves in perpetuity.

From working with oxen to working with a board of directors, no other book contains such a wealth of innovative ideas and ways to make your farm or homestead not only more sustainable, but more inclusive of, and beneficial to, the larger community. Readers will find information on such subjects as:

  • Working with pigs to transform forested landscapes into arable land;
  • Designing and building unique, multifunctional farm and community spaces using various techniques and materials;
  • Creating and perpetuating diverse revenue streams to keep your farm organization solvent and resilient;
  • Receiving maximum benefits and yields for the farm without denigrating resources or the regional ecology;
  • Implementing a fair and effective governance structure;
  • Constructing everything from solar dehydrators and cookers to treehouses and ponds; and,
  • Connecting and partnering with the larger community beyond the farm.

Emphasizing collaboration, cooperation, and mutualism, this book promises to inspire a new generation of growers, builders, educators, artists, and dreamers who are seeking new and practical ways to address today’s problems on a community scale.

Available in: Paperback

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The Community-Scale Permaculture Farm

Josh Trought

Paperback $40.00