Crete is not just a tourist destination.
Check out her alternative side!

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  • Building your own house: priceless!Building your own house: priceless!

The Archanes Project: Houses made from straw balls and clay

Natural building was once the only way to construct a house in Crete. Then, modernization came together with cement, which became the ‘queen’ of building materials ever since. But, something is changing again: young people in Crete recruit their friends and volunteers and together rediscover the pleasure of building their own house with all natural materials… The Archanes Project leads the way!

 

Cretazine Tips

  • Natural building is not only ecological but also energy-efficient: energy save reaches 70-80%.
  • Part of the roof will be planted with herbs and other plants with short roots. 
  • Building natural houses isn’t time consuming if you have a program: it is estimated that each house needs 6 months to be completed, with personal and voluntary work.
  • If you want to see how the Archanes Project evolves up close, contact Giorgos Ritsakis (+30 6936957835, [email protected]). You can also visit the blog that includes details on the methods, a photo gallery and even a live webcam!

 

Published in  Cretan Tales
//  Written by Sissy Papadogianni
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Building with materials like straw and wood …well, that sounds like the story of the ‘three little pigs’, where finally the house made of bricks proved to be more resistant to outside threats. And the truth is, most people would laugh at this idea, thinking that houses built this way will not make it through time. However, new evidence suggests that the ‘three little pigs’ propaganda shouldn’t scare us. If designed correctly, ‘natural houses’ can be more resistant, healthier and much cutter than conventional ones. Plus, they are much more economical and sustainable. So, maybe there is another way?

Alternative building methods have become an international trend gradually gaining ground in Greece - partly due to the economic and environmental crisis. These methods have the potential to reduce energy waste -since most materials come directly from the earth- and transform house owners to construction workers, who willingly get their hands dirty!

Giorgos Ritsakis, the inspirer of “The Archanes Project” , initially wanted to build his house with stone. Then, while researching other methods on the internet, he found out about the natural building group ‘Piloiko’ and attended workshops in Chania and Agios Nikolaos to practice the different techniques. He finally decided that the best method to use in the two houses he constructs on a slope facing the olive groves of Archanes and mount Yuchtas is the “light clay” technique. Straw and clay are mixed together and fill the ‘skeleton’ of the house, which is then finished with plaster. Cretan land offers all the materials generously, including the large stones used for the foundations.
 

Apart from the house owner, friends and neighbors ‘rolled around the mud’ to help in the construction, including a couple from Argentina who came from across the globe to share their knowledge

The construction of the first house started in the end of July and today patiently waits for its clay to dry until the last warm days of autumn, when it will be finished with plaster and adorned with all these little things that make it a home. The construction of the second house will follow, using the “know-how” heritage gained from the first.

As for the hard workers, apart from the owner, friends, relatives, neighbors and volunteers ‘rolled around the mud’, offering their valuable skills, including Ezekiel and Rossio, a couple from Argentina with long experience in natural building from similar works in their country. Up until now 35 people believed in Archanes Project and helped to realize it. And this is how the building of a house ‘builds’ a community, personal skills and ecological awareness! “When I say to people I’m constructing my house, I say it literaly’, Giorgos Ritsakis proudly states.

Our message to the unbelievers is to drive to the lovely village of Archanes and visit the site of the project to see how pretty and functional these constructions are…and take some old clothes with you, because we are sure you too will want to roll around the mud ;-)