One of our main activities at Abrazo House is natural building: creating beautiful, comfortable and affordable spaces for living and working, using mainly volunteer labour and local, low-impact, natural and/or recycled materials.
When we started this project in 2005, we had a fair amount of theoretical knowledge about ecological living and building but almost no practical building experience. Despite this we realised that if we wanted to build ecologically sound and inexpensive houses we would have to do it ourselves, with the help of family, friends and others who came to work and learn with us.
Eight years later, we have built three houses and learned a great deal about how to build, and live, in harmony with our surroundings. We don’t think of building as a goal in itself, but as an important facet of the art of living.
It’s true that it is a lot of work to build a house for yourself. But it’s healthy, creative and enjoyable work — certainly compared with what most people do to pay the rent or a mortgage. By learning to build for yourself you can adapt your environment to your needs and desires, instead of being stuck in a maladapted space, paying for someone else’s mistakes of design and construction.
Our first building project was Snail Cabin, a small house designed as a guest cabin for one or two people, but which became a temporary home for two adults and two small children. It was built in 2006-7 (and subsequently enlarged) entirely with volunteer labour, at a cost of around €7000 in materials.
Building Snail Cabin was an intense learning experience, which let us make mistakes on a small scale before starting the main house (Abrazo House): a 200m2, two-story house that took us four years to build.
As a small, fun project during the construction of the main house, we built a playhouse using left-over materials. We used this project as a test-bed for techniques which we later applied on a larger scale.
We always have more ideas for building projects, renovating and improving our existing structures. We also hope in the future to expand onto a second site in the same village with building permission for two houses, with the aim of attracting more families to the village in order to create a sustainable community. We are looking for people to take part in this project.