Monthly Guild Gathering – Massey Burke Natural Builder

Image may contain: house, tree and outdoorPlease join us for our monthly Guild meeting and a talk from:

Massey Burke is a Natural Building Builder and Expert. She has designed and built numerous buildings and architectural sculptures using natural building elements; such as clay, sand and gravel, straw, bamboo and wood, to work towards restoration ecology. We are looking forward to a incredibly interesting presentation.

Massey currently lives in the San Francisco Bay area where she practices and teaches. Current and recent collaborators include the Ecological Building Network, the University of San Francisco architecture and engineering programs, Lake County Redevelopment and Public Services, Swarthmore College, the Solar Living Institute, Marin Academy, and Berkeley High School Green Academy. Please see below for a wonderful description of Massey’s work and defining theories.

Guild Mtg:
On the first Wednesday of every month, the San Francisco Permaculture Guild meets in The Gazebo Room, at CPMC Davies (located at Castro and Duboce).
People will arrive and network from 6:30-7pm, and the meeting goes from 7-9pm. You are invited to bring a potluck dish to share.

The Gazebo is on the 1st floor of the South Tower. The South Tower is straight ahead as you enter the driveway. The driveway entrance is in the middle of Castro Street between 14th and Duboce Streets. You’ll see the entrance to the campus on your left. It’s the building that has the big lighted EMERGENCY ENTRANCE sign. If you enter on the ground floor, take the elevator UP to the first floor.
If you come by public transportation, take the N Judah to the Duboce Street stop and walk up towards Castro. If you drive, there’s a parking lot at the end of the driveway on your right, or you can try to find someplace on the street before entering the driveway.

I like to think of my work as restoration ecology for the built environment. I work with natural materials in construction for practical reasons—because they are beautiful, nontoxic, high-performance, and low-carbon—but I also use them because they have the power to restore imagination and hope. I think we have despaired of relating to nature beneficially: many people believe that human needs and the needs of other living things are fundamentally at odds, but this is not necessarily true. We have the power to rebuild a relationship with nature that benefits both humans and other living things. Natural building is now a growing part of our culture because it embodies this possibility.

What is “natural building?” Natural building is the art of using unrefined, locally available materials, often harvested directly from the landscape, to make structures. The basic materials are simple—clay, sand and gravel, straw, bamboo, wood—but can be combined into a surprisingly wide range of walls, floors, and finishes. These techniques can be used stand-alone, or in combination with more conventional buildings in both new construction and remodels. Natural building methods have a long, distinguished, complex, and continuous lineage in human history, and for more than half of the people in the world these are still the primary forms of building. Many of these methods have now been modified to complement our modern way of life. However, their core appeal for many people is how they connect us directly to the landscapes that we live in, both aesthetically and practically. In a global economy that has become unimaginably complicated, natural building offers a way to experience a direct give and take with the biosphere—a way to experience and make choices about how we affect nature.

On a bigger scale, natural building offers us solutions to some of our most pressing problems. The modern built environment is a major driver of carbon emissions, and natural building methods are powerful tools for reducing the impact of buildings on the climate. In fact, some natural materials go beyond reducing our climate emissions, and actually turn buildings into partial carbon sinks! We are learning how to make the transition to an economy that is carbon-appropriate. But I want to go beyond that. I want to help build an economy that is carbon-creative. Carbon is incredibly useful, even crucial, for all sorts of basic human endeavors like farming and building. There just happens to be a lot of it in the wrong place. Fortunately we are developing ways to pull it out of the atmosphere and put it in more useful places.

I’m interested in pulling carbon out of the atmosphere and putting it into two places in particular: back into agricultural soil, where it is crucial for productivity, water retention, plant nutrient uptake and density, and resiliency during drought; and into high-performance buildings by expanding the use of natural materials in construction. Working with the supply chains for natural building materials, and straw and wood in particular, offers us a way to accomplish both of these carbon-sequestering actions simultaneously.