Tell us the story of the Sociable Weaver.
The Sociable Weaver is a design and building company that creates healthy, sustainable, community minded, functional homes
Across the semi-arid plains of Southern Africa, some of the most spectacular structures ever built by a bird are perched on top of trees and power lines. These carefully constructed nests reach heights of up to four metres, with as many as four or five hundred birds inhabiting them at one time. Woven together with twigs, stems, sticks and dried grasses, they feature interconnected spaces that allow the inhabitants to both socialise and enjoy solitude within the bird community. Nesting several generations at a time, these nests withstand the extreme African weather to exist for hundreds of years.
These resilient, high-density communities are built to belong by the incredibly intelligent bird – the Sociable Weaver.
Inspired by this small bird, we too work with the natural world, building homes and structures that are regenerative and inspiring. Homes that foster a sense of belonging for everyone who inhabits the space. We are not only interested in creating homes; we are interested in creating a new way of being — one that inspires a richer, more meaningful experience for the inhabitant, and has a positive impact on the world we live.
What does sustainable housing design mean to you?
Sustainable housing design at the core is really about using the natural world to our advantage, to create a home that utilises the sun to heat and cool the home, and using materials that have less impact on our environment. It means designing more in harmony with nature rather than taking from nature. Environmental responsibility informs every decision we make from our building materials to our building processes. This isn’t just about positively impacting the planet and increasing energy efficiency in our homes, it’s about connecting residents to nature, awakening their senses, and promoting a healthier, more balanced state of mind and wellbeing.
What role can built spaces play in fostering a deeper connection with the natural world?
If designed with the right intention, homes and streetscapes can open people up to one another and the natural surrounding environment, cultivating meaningful relationships while still allowing residents to find the solitude they need in their daily lives. Like the nests built by the Sociable Weaver, homes and built spaces can foster a sense of belonging — connecting residents to their environment, their community and ultimately, to themselves. By blending our homes with their natural surrounding environments, and inviting nature closer and even in to the home, we can live more in harmony with nature and understand nature more rather than closing ourselves off to it.
What shifts do we need to see in the construction industry?
We would love to see the construction industry move to carbon neutral housing and construction, creating homes that give back to our planet more than they take from it. This is possible through water capture and recycling, solar power generation, less reliance on mechanical heating and cooling, sustainably sourced materials, waste recycling, the list goes on. In general, we would like to see more rapid uptake of these technologies and methods, and incentive to do so. This will help us to move more quickly toward a carbon neutral construction industry.
Why is beauty an important element in housing design?
We believe beauty and the aesthetic world play a powerful role in igniting the human spirit and inspiring us to action. We spend much of our lives in and around our home, and feeling connected and inspired by the home not only ensures we feel comfortable in that particular environment, but that feeling also flows through other areas of our life away from the home.
How can our homes better connect us to our communities?
Creating homes that do not close off to our outside world, and instead open us up to our surroundings and neighbours, can have a huge impact on our wellbeing and connection with our community. Houses that don’t have front fences, for example, allow us to interact with our neighbours and create deeper connections with our community. This can have all sorts of benefits such as sharing resources, sharing ideas or knowledge, even sharing experiences, and also help us to feel more safe in our communities.
Learn more about The Sociable Weaver here.