The 12 Principles of Traditional Building

I have just read an article by Mathew Hardy about the principles shared by traditional buildings. New buildings should incorporate what we have learnt  from traditional  buildings. These have stood the test of time and  can be said to be truly sustainable. How were buildings made  when people had to build their own homes with only local resources at their disposal. As Hardy says we are about to enter a time of shortages. In fact many areas of the world are already experiencing this. This is something we share with the past. These buildings have a lot to teach us.

The principles are

1. Closed |Building Energy Cycle

2. Use Local Materials

3.Build Up, Don’t dig down – that is sit the buildings as far as possible on the natural slope

4. Timber and wood

5.Maximum Volume Minimum Surface Area: enclose the maximum possible volume using the minimum of materials  thus minimising surface area.

6. Build to Enclose Open Space

7.Finishes Reflect the Use of the Rooms

8. Make 16  foot  or 5,5 m rooms – relates to the size of timbers

9.Shed the rain and make a usable loft – this is the most important element of a building. You need to create usable roof spaces while minamising both eaves height and the number of junctions in the roof plane itself

10.Animals Below and Hay Above – and other strange strategies

11.Build for Cyclical Maintenance and Repair – traditional materials are not necessarily highly durable but local economies  supported through maintenance rituals of renewal.

12.Only Heat the Key Spaces  – additional heat from warm clothes and/or animals

For further information about Mathew Hardy:

Whole article can be found here:


‘Designing Ecological Habitats: Creating a Sense of Place’ Ed C. Mare and M. Lindegger, 2011, Permanent Pubs.

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2 comments on “The 12 Principles of Traditional Building
  1. J Safran says:

    Makes sense. Should trade in my electric underblanket for a goat.

  2. They give milk as well so that’s breakfast sorted too!

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