Sunday, April 10, 2011

"99.4% Natural"

This is a label on my Burt's Bees hand lotion. I've also noticed from purchasing organic foods that almost none of them are made of 100% organic ingredients; for a food to be certified organic, I remember reading, only a certain percentage of the ingredients have to be organic. Well, if the body-product and food industries are anything like the building materials industry, I understand now why it's so hard to get that last 0.6% out. All of these industries seem to be so mired in dependence on artificial chemicals that it's nearly impossible to create, or even find, a purely natural product.

For what I put on and in my (God's) body I'll take what I can get - the less toxins the better. And I've realized that I'll have to take what I can get with this house as well. One of my original goals - also for my body, and/or yours, and animals and plants - was that it would be made of nothing but natural materials: no paint; no stain; no treated wood; no sheetrock; no carpet; not even concrete.

And then I saw the price tag - for a granite boulder foundation and cedar window headers and iron drain pipes and...  and realized that just as there would probably be no Burt's Bees hand lotion if they demanded 100% natural ingredients, there would be no Church House if I demanded 100% natural building materials. So I decided to settle for 99.4% - or thereabouts. There is still no paint, stain, sheetrock or carpet, and I see no reason there ever will be. But the pictures below from the last few weeks of work indicate places where compromises have been made. In the end most of them will be buried - and that's the way to do it. If you must employ the services of poisonous ingredients, make them the ones you never touch.

The first window header in the stone wall, a 2-foot thick stack of 2x8s
bolted together. The wood is "pressure treated" with who knows
what chemicals. I hope not the ones that began to be phased out
a few years ago when it was discovered that treated wood
in playground equipment led to higher rates of cancer in people
who played on it (hey, that includes me!). But even so, we ain't gonna
climb on these headers. Well, not every day.

Footings dug for the four brick columns in the Great Room.
Not for stone boulders now, for concrete. And you'll never see it again.

Plumbing is in! That's PVC pipe - "polyvinyl chloride."
Anything with both vinyl AND chlorine...
well, it's good enough to haul shit, I guess.

This is PEX pipe for water - "cross-linked polyethylene."
Pretty. But I don't plan to drink from it.

I had to end with some of the 99.4% - chunks of baked clay bathing in the sun. And below, some of the Old Artist's living sculpture that will benefit from it.


  1. I'm glad to see that's it coming together, it's so encouraging to see photos and read about it all. And you're right, you probably shouldn't chew on the treated wood. I've heard good things about PEX piping though, apparently they've been using it in Europe for awhile. A friend up here in the mountains replumbed his entire house with it. It's supposed to be able to expand a bit so that if the water freezes it doesn't burst the pipe. Up here in the mountains I suppose that's a big deal.

    Let us know how we can be praying for you.

  2. No question PEX will do a great job handling water. But plastics are known to leach chemicals. So that's why I said I just won't drink from it. Not often anyway.

    Thanks for your offer of prayer. That means a lot. Mostly for wisdom I think - for me and the builders, to construct this house exactly as God wants it (not necessarily exactly as I've designed it). I want his Spirit to be out there on site guiding everything. Also for the future - wisdom for how this house will be used, and by whom. I want to be open and imaginative both during and after construction about what God might want to do through this place, even if it's not what I imagined before. Pray for God to call people who might be involved with this house in some way, whether through ministry or living or whatever.

    I guess that will do for now ;) How about you guys? Let me know how to pray.