The Birth of a Wooden House: Carpentry and Resilience in Latvia

In this video Jacob Neeman shows us an account of the building of his house in Latvia. What do you need to build a wooden house? Jacob starts at the beginning, with the forest. From a permaculture perspective this is very interesting; he is clearly engaging with the local ecosystem and uses mainly natural and local resources, with “Lime, sand and concrete mixture [used] only in small amounts”. Every step of the process is done by hand which is impressive especially when you see the finished product!

The house is made following a traditional Latvian design. “In the walls, timber frame and roof construction”, Jacob says in the video description, “I used only wood joints and wooden pegs to hold the main construction together – no nails, screws or steel plates”. He also chars the exterior wood frame pieces using a technique adapted from the Japanese Shou Sugi Ban (焼杉板). This all-natural technique has been used in Norway where, Jacob says, there are wooden stave churches which have been standing for more than 500 years. In Japan, the pagoda of the Horyuji Temple in Nara built using Shou Sugi Ban is widely considered the “oldest wooden building in the world” (see for example 1,2), the current version of which was probably completed in the year 711 AD (2). So Jacob’s house stands a pretty good chance of being resilient!

As a showcase of the techniques and styles used in the construction this video is very inspirational and there is easily enough information provided to explore further if you wish to do any of these things yourself. If you are into carpentry there is plenty of eye candy for you, but there are also some beautiful shots – from the snow-clad Latvian forests and collecting moss in the local swamp to close-ups of the charred wood-grain and of the feline helpers – which make the video enjoyable as well as informative.


1. UNESCO, 2016. ‘Horyuji Temple’.

2. Web Japan, 2001. ‘100 Years Older Than Supposed? World Heritage Pagoda’.

Charlotte Ashwanden

Charlotte Ashwanden (nee Haworth). Born in London, I am very interested in peace and community and have a degree in Peace Studies. I got my Permaculture Design Certificate in 2011, from Treeyo at Permaship in Bulgaria, and my Permaculture Teaching Certificate in 2018 at Aranya in India. For me, permaculture is about so much more than garden design; I am mainly interested in applying ‘human permaculture’ as a complement to peace practices. In particular, I like to look at how human permaculture can be applied through psychology, communication and education techniques. In 2015 I got married in a pagan ceremony in a field to David Ashwanden and changed my surname to Ashwanden. With my husband, I’ve travelled a lot in Europe and Asia and encountered many permaculture and community projects. I have lived in various situations, from squatted land to intentional communities, as well as more ‘normal’ places, in the UK, Spain, Italy, Thailand and Vietnam. A professional dancer, I do fire and hula dance and sometimes run dance meditation workshops. Currently, I live in the Andalucian mountains.


  1. My utmost respect and awe for what these dedicated people have achieved, I take my hat off to them all, may they live long and happy lives within its walls, such love and dedication to such a beautiful build!

  2. As home builders ourselves, but from a kit. I marvel at your enginuety. I love the hole concept. You have created a beautiful home using what was available. May you live long and happy lives in your beautiful home.

  3. May you and your family live in this gorgeous, wholesome, healthy, beautiful house for long and may this creation last for centuries to come. Thank you Jacob, for sharing your art and heart with us.

  4. An amazing accomplishment and a home likely to remain in the family for many years to come.

    A structure that will live long after the builder has moved on to a better place.

    Congratulations. Be very proud.

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