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From The Ground Up Campaign Logo

From The Ground Up Campaign

Our journey commenced in 2019 on a small farm we call home in Mpumalanga, South Africa. We had fallen in love with a piece of ground at the crest of a high ridge, hidden beneath thick vegetation and scattered by immense boulders. Most builders would have instantly dismissed the spot as a suitable building site but we accepted the challenge. Little did we know at that time that these natural ‘parameters’ would soon send us on an adventurous discovery into the infinite world of alternative building. The lay of the land with its rocks, steep inclines and endless views already dictated the lay out of our home and it also suggested we search for an alternative building material that would mould onto the boulders rather fight against them and this is where it all started. Once we started to explore this new curious world of earth bag building we knew we could not stop there and wanted to investigate other ideas and techniques allowing us to build with and for the natural world. 

Now 5 years later we have delved into to a variety of eco- build methods from earth bag walls, to used tyre foundations, glass bottle walls, locally harvested bamboo roof trussing and reed cladding, discarded conveyor belt as roofing shingles and earthen plastered walls.

Our foundations found us searching endlessly for old discarded car tyres which we painstakingly packed and pounded with rocks layer upon layer to form the incredibly strong, floating foundations of our home where water can flow through freely rather than blocking and damning up against.

For the bathrooms we collected thousands of glass bottles from the trash; we then cut these bottles in half and after loads of bleeding glass cuts we formed them into bricks we could build with. The end result is a rather mystical light filled room that requires neither painting or tiling.

The majority of our walls are built with earth bags. The 25kg bags were sourced from a factory that was disregarding thousands of bags who's labels had been mis- printed. We then began the labourious task of filling each bag with the clay- rich soil from our site, packing them and compacting them. The result is a thick, strong impenetrable organic wall.

When it came to the roof structure we put posters out asking if any locals had any bamboo plants they would be willing to donate. This was answered immediately by a few of our local farming neighbours. We then harvested masses of giant live bamboo poles which we then treated, dried, sanded and sealed ourselves. We used these strong and resilient poles to build our roof which we cladded by weaving reeds found on the farm.

It was obvious we could not, nor did we want to, use any conventional materials when it came to roofing so we settled on something very experimental that we could not find any information on or evidence that it had been used before; conveyor belt. So off we went to the mining areas of the country to collect 5 tons of old mining belt which we arduously cut into rounded roofing shingles.

Our house is filled with reclaimed doors and windows and those we could not find, we plan to now build ourselves. Furthermore we are excited to explore an earthen plastering technique in our bedroom using the clay rich soil mixed with the dung from the farm horses.

We love our journey of transforming natural and recycled materials into structural elements to build our home, proving them to be both aesthetically pleasing, functional, environmentally sustainable and affordable. It has been such a rewarding process and we have learnt so much and already share our knowledge via social media. We are hoping to finish our home and have it stand as a testament or example for us promote the alternative building techniques we have come to know in a country where such methods remain mostly unexplored.

It has now been a 5 year labour of love and with a little one now on the way we are asking for a little financial help to finish our dream home that will hopefully inspire many more like it in the future.


Fundraising target

R 30 000.00

Donations to date

R 0.00

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