Gil brushes up on his "Natural Finishes"

Today’s book review, part of our ‘eco books review festival’, is by guest writer Gil Peled: Jerusalem-based Israeli eco-architect Gil (who trained in architecture in the wilds of deepest Scotland…), has been involved in planning and designing on the green scene in Israel for many years. His ongoing project is coordinating a Jerusalem apartment building which runs as a green housing project. He has recently returned from lecturing about this wonderful project at Oxford University. Learn more about it here, and do take the time to visit and get inspired!

using natural finishes book review

Finishes are coatings applied to the external and internal surfaces of walls to protect them from the external elements and from internal wear and tear. In addition to their function to cover and protect the building’s structure, their textures and colours also determine the aesthetics of the building’s general appearance and interior spaces and atmosphere.

For centuries, lime and earth have been used for all types of buildings, on several continents and in hot and cold climate zones. The intention of this guide is to reacquaint us with ancient traditions and knowhow and to adapt them for contemporary use. This is especially relevant today in the light of growing public awareness of, and demand for, environmentally friendly, green and healthy buildings, as well as for DIY construction and repairs in tradional and vernancular contexts.

The guide, Using Natural Finishes, lime and earth based plasters, renders and paints – a step by step guide, by Adam Weismann and Katy Bryce, is very comprehensive and informative with overviews, useful advice and practical tips. Significant and interesting background information is provided throughout, such as the reduced environmental impacts and CO2 emissions and improved health of breathing natural finishes. “Cookery book” methods of application on various building structures include earth, cob, adobe, masonry walls, strawbale etc. as well as various detailings.

The guide includes numerous colour photos and images of buildings, interiors, materials and methods, making it both aesthetically appealing and practical. As it would look good on a coffee table, it could prove somewhat glossy for a building site so it might be desirable to print it on recycled paper and make it a bit sturdier, with perhaps a water-resistant cover. A first time reader may feel overwhelmed with this wealth of information, but only at a first glance, as the descriptions and instructions are orderly and comprehensive. This guide is recommended for laymen and professionals enabling both to plunge into this intriguing field of natural finishes. What remains now is to go out and find a wall to render and get some hands dirty.

Using Natural Finishes, lime and earth based plasters, renders and paints – a step by step guide
by Adam Weismann and Katy Bryce. Published by Green Books, UK ( 2008

About James Murray-White

Growing up in a green village outside Cambridge, UK gave me an eye into the natural world, and years later, after being an actor, dramatist, weary traveller and anthropologist, the environment fires me up the most – and the need to save and nurture it… while we live within it. I now live in the UK, with partner Tania and 2 pesky cats – writing and filming the world (slowly making a documentary about the Bedouin situation) take up my creative time. I do this while growing things organically and composting profusely take up the remainder. James can be reached at james (at) greenprophet (dot) com.

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