The Lab: Building Naturally to Survive a Wildfire

Sep 18, 2020
 How can we make Commune Topanga (and all our communities) safer from wildfire in the future? That's at the top of our mind not only because the West Coast is experiencing the worst fire season ever, but just last week a trailer dragging its axel sparked a 10-acre bushfire only a few miles down the road.


One answer is to move toward building with the most eco-friendly, fireproof substance available — the earth beneath our feet. We have a new cob building project at Commune that's not quite ready for photos (yet!) so in the meantime, we took a trip to Living Circle Farm in Carmel Valley, California.

Rob and Jennifer built their home using earthbags and earthen plaster while the guest was a modern "stick-built" structure. When the Carmel Valley Fire raged through their farm last month, the guest house burned to the ground, but the roundhouse was untouched. 

The view from their property:

The guest house before and after:

The earthbag home, still standing.


You can support Living Circle Farm rebuild with their GoFundMe here, and if you want to support advocacy for fire-proof natural building, we highly recommend you check out what Quail Springs Permaculture is doing here. They are working at the government level to create a streamlined, affordable pathway for anyone who wants to permit and build an earthen home in California.

What is your experience with natural building? Or, if you are in wildfire country, how are you preparing?

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