A Natural Builder Renovates for “Social Architecture” too


Thursday, August 19, 2010. Natural builder Lydia Doleman of Flying Hammer Productions gave us plenty of stories about the urban neighborhood community that’s evolving from two adjoining homes she purchased with friends. And she gave us a tour of the cob studio and recently-completed straw bale home.

When Lydia and a friend bought a Craftsman-style home in a Portland neighborhood, they renovated it  earthen wall surfaces, healthier paints and more. Following permacultural principles, Lydia wanted to keep as many resources on site as possible, like rainwater catchment to keep water in the land rather than diverted into the city sewer system. When she built the cob (clay and straw) studio, she included a living roof so the land taken by the studio is “returned” to growing plants.

Some years ago when an adjoining rental house became available, she contacted the owner and purchased it. She took the fence down between the parcels, and put glass french doors on both house sides facing into the central commons. This “social architecture” was an invitation for residents to interact with one another, evolving into a community that now houses about a dozen people in three homes (see “Fences Down: Creating Community in the City“).

Lydia gave us a tour of the recently-completed third home. It’s architecturally modeled like the others yet far more resource efficient. It has a 500 square foot ground floor with a single kitchen, dining, living room plus an extra room, and 300 square feet in the second story with two bedrooms and bath. The structure is framed like a traditional “stick built” home but boasts thick straw bale insulation, hydroponic heating in the floors, natural cob wall finishes, salvaged wood where possible, and custom-built windows. A metal roof feeds rainwater collectors, and it too has a living roof ready for planting. Solar hot water will be joined by solar electricity soon.

She also gave us a tour of the charming small cob studio. But I’m going to let you wait see it in the video!

Building structures, social structures. Starting with what’s already in place and then…enhancing it, bending it towards shared living, a lighter footprint, sustainability. (www.theflyinghammer.com).


  1. Gary G. Highberger says:

    Thanks to Peak Moment for sharing Lydia’s grand vision with us.

    Lydia’s cool site: http://www.theflyinghammer.com/

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