Info & News
New qualification in Natural Building
While building using natural materials was certainly the norm in pre-industrialised societies, modern day construction methods have favoured energy intensive and highly processed materials. Now, however, a growing awareness of the impacts that our buildings can have on both human health and the environment have led to an increased demand for more sustainable building practices. This renewed interest has resulted in a new certificate programme being offered by Timaru’s Aoraki Polytechnic in 2011.
The part-time Certificate in Natural Building combines online learning with practical workshops to give hands on experience. The programme has been developed to provide students with the skills to make informed choices about the various methods and materials used to construct a ‘natural’ home. The initial online module, run over eight weeks, introduces students to the concepts and philosophies upon which natural building is based. This includes an understanding of sustainability in the built environment, important design considerations and material choices. Once this is completed, students will attend two six-day practical workshops. Students will be offered a range of options for the workshops including earth-building, straw bale building, stone masonry, natural plasters and paints, services for natural buildings (energy and water systems) and eco-renovation.
The programme is designed to give participants a holistic approach to the way we design and build houses, the impact of buildings and how we can meet our housing needs in a more sustainable way. One of the architects of the programme, long time natural building advocate Blue Forsyth, sees this programme as a small but significant move towards having natural materials and ideals more widely accepted within the building industry. "This programme provides an NZQA accredited introduction to natural building suitable for building designers and officials, through to trades-people and owner-builders. We see this as the first step in developing a career path that will eventually dovetail into existing industry training, from trade-training to academic research” says Mr Forsyth. He points to recent changes in building legislation that will increasingly demand evidence of qualifications or experience before being allowed to carry out significant building work, even as an owner-builder. Mr Forsyth believes this to be the first formal qualification in natural building to be offered in New Zealand.
The first cohort of students has recently completed the first module. The Polytechnic plans to run this online component of the programme again before the workshops, which will follow in October. Initially, the workshops will be held in South Canterbury but these may also be offered in other regions where there is sufficient demand. To find out more about this exciting new opportunity you can contact Ann Fitzgerald at the Aoraki Polytechnic on 0800 426 725 extension 884.