An opportunity to come and visit a selection of Natural Buildings around NZ this February and find out more about natural and appropriate building.
We want to make natural building accessible to everyone - both building professionals and owner-builders. Whether it's a 10m2 sleep-out or a large-scale commercial development - we need to change the way we build and we believe that great buildings should be healthy for their occupants, the wider community and the environment.
The YMFY website will become a central resource with articles, videos, guides and technical resources on natural building and appropriate building technology in New Zealand. Along side the website we will be running and promoting workshops throughout New Zealand. We also intend to build a physical YIMFY Visitors Centre over time.
Along with showcasing great examples of natural building and providing resources to inspire and inform you, we also aim to provide practical information on how to start building with natural materials and get your project started.
Yes, in my front yard
The YIMFY Trust was created to promote and develop ways of making buildings that foster the health and well-being of both the people who occupy them and the global ecosystems of which they are part. These ways are collectively known as Appropriate Building Technology and incorporate locally sourced, ecologically sustainable, and environmentally restorative materials and methods in the construction, renovation and deconstruction of buildings. The term ‘YIMFY – Yes! In My Front Yard’, was coined at the inaugural meeting of the founding trustees as a response to the prevailing ‘NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard’, attitude where any negative consequences of technology choices are inflicted on others, somewhere else. Despite increasing information about these consequences, many in the design and construction fields are reluctant to use more appropriate building materials which are often outside the mainstream. This is the vision that drives the YIMFY Trust. We are motivated by a concern for the future, by increasing public interest in using ‘natural’ or appropriate building materials and systems, and a desire to bring these options into the mainstream or at least to make them real options for consideration when embarking on a building project. Appropriate building technology has an important part to play in the pursuit of better ways of building new and repairing old buildings.
Research has shown that houses using earth and straw, both natural and appropriate materials, account for only 1% of building consents for houses issued annually. Why is this? Regulations rely on scientific knowledge and testing: regulations are born out of experimentation. This is where an Appropriate Building Technology Centre – The YIMFY Centre - comes in. Such a centre could carry out and/or coordinate research and then feed working technologies suitable for our own conditions into the New Zealand built environment.
To do this, experimentation and testing needs to take place, but experimental building is difficult to carry out in New Zealand. There are two mechanisms within the current regulatory system that can allow this to happen. Firstly, Territorial Authorities (TAs) can establish a zone for experimental or demonstration buildings under the Resource Management Act (RMA) but this requires the full support of the TA to succeed. The second mechanism is contained within the Building Act where there is provision for TAs to grant a building consent subject to a waiver or modification of the New Zealand Building Code ￼(NZBC). Neither option is commonly undertaken – they are too onerous and too expensive. By establishing a centre where experimentation and testing could take place, the YIMFY Centre would go a long way towards enabling appropriate building technologies to be widely used within the existing regulatory environment.
Despite the regulatory issues, the development of appropriate building technologies is already happening at individual sites throughout New Zealand, but there is no organisation that connects them or acts as a repository of knowledge about the systems being used and discovered. The YIMFY Centre would act as a centre for this current decentralised system: a hub to connect, support and grow the work being done. It would provide a crucial missing element in New Zealand’s built environment research programme, contribute towards more affordable housing by assisting owner builders, and enable wider use of appropriate building technologies within the New Zealand building industry.
The YIMFY concept firmed up when Robin Allison, founder of Earthsong Eco-Neighbourhood (Earthsong) in Ranui, West Auckland, approached architect Graeme North, New Zealand’s leading authority in natural building systems, with the idea that the front-of-house site at Earthsong be considered as a possible site for the Centre for Appropriate Building Technology that Graeme wished to establish. Allison and North invited Alan Drayton, Amanda Garland, and Min Hall to join them and in November 2012 ‘YIMFY – Yes! In My Front Yard‘ was born. The YIMFY Trust is now a registered charity with the initial five as trustees. Together they have substantial expertise in sustainable architecture and building, community involvement, website and IT systems, and project development.
The site is owned by Walk to Work Eco-Developments Ltd (W2W), a company set up by Earthsong residents and friends with the aim of developing a commercial enterprise that would be compatible with the ethics of Earthsong: a complementary development. Early discussions between YIMFY, W2W and Earthsong indicated a promising fit with other future eco-businesses on the W2W site. This would locate the YIMFY Centre within reach by public transport of over 1.5 million Auckland residents as well as overseas visitors.
In conclusion: Exploratory and experimental building is difficult to carry out under current regulations. This means that to research, use and promote many appropriate building materials and techniques is at best difficult and more often impossible. Individuals and organisations around the country are working with appropriate building technologies but there is no single organisation that connects them. The YIMFY Centre for Appropriate Building Technology would fill an obvious gap in building research being undertaken in New Zealand and in doing so make it easier to use materials and methods conducive to creating healthy interior environments and external ecosystems.
Natural Building in the 21st Century
Imagine a world where building supply merchants sold earth bricks and plasters, straw bales, and untreated timbers as a matter of course. Where young architects and builders learned about using appropriate building materials as a core part of their training. Where Territorial Authorities regarded consent applications for buildings using other than standard timber framing as normal. Where everyone involved in a building project from the owner to the designer to the consenting authorities to those putting it together really considered the appropriateness of their design and material choices, and the impact these decisions would have on the world around them: not only on their front yards but on everyone else’s too.
Meet the YIMFY Team
The YIMFY Trust has a number of primary goals:
Create an online resource to promote natural building and provide materials to inform and enable people.
Design and build an education centre using appropriate building technologies.
Link, coordinate and generate research in appropriate building methods throughout New Zealand, and make that information available.
Provide expertise to support both owner-builders and construction professionals.
NZ Building codes
Work to get appropriate materials and systems accepted for NZ Building Code compliance.