Peter Cowman



Peter studied architecture.  In 1989 he began a rethink of what architecture is.  He wanted to examine the ideas and motivations behind shelter making. Taking it back to basics, looking at what we would want to use all the spaces in a home for, looking at designing for the individual that the design evolves with the making.  Emphasis on no mortgage or planning permission building possibilities.
He developed the econospace a timber framed building of less than 25msquare (no need for planning if on a piece of land with a building already on it). It is a simple structure with posts and beams and an infill of clay and straw. Windows are sealed and ventilation is provided by vent shafts which can be opened and closed as needed ensuring maximum insulation and heat retention. Can be built for €5000.
He has now developed his living architecture course which he has developed over the last 20 years. He wanted to help to take away the mystery of shelter making, to bring it back into people’s consciousnesses.  He has developed a website where he shares his philosophy on shelter making, sustainability and food growing.  He now teaches this it on a regular basis in Leitrim and Australia. He is the first to acknowledge that home building is hard work and messy but the real problems that we face when building run deeper than that. They manifest themselves as practical problems such as where to get square straw bales from or a reliable plasterer or how to use lime but the real questions run deeper and involve getting in touch with your life and looking at how you are spending your life and what are your values. It does however give you the ‘opportunity to encounter your life’
Links to transition town’s ideas, and looking to the post peak oil situation. He has views on the psychology that is affecting people today when looking at the post oil scenario, he believes that they cannot deal with it and that the closer or more obvious the world’s situation becomes the harder people try to deny it and ignore what they are going to have to face (i.e. do without learn new ways of living). 
In 2005 bought this piece of land with a small amount of money that his mother left him and moved his prototype econospace from Leitrim Village to the site and finished off as a site office. He is now running Living Architecture courses from this site and has an econospace in progress. He is continually assessing how we make shelters and looks at the histories of how the human race has built around the world.
He is currently in Ireland but spends a lot of time delivering the same courses in Australia.

In his words:
The EconoSpace Project

The current state of the global economy is the perfect backdrop against which to view the future.
The pessimistic view held by many people – myself included – regarding the economic structure of the world can now be deemed correct. This structure, constructed on a foundation of mortgage debt, as it collapses, reveals a cynical and manipulative system which exploits people’s essential need for secure shelter.
It is now essential, in the face of this economic collapse that efforts are made to create homes free of mortgage debt. This is the inspiration behind the EconoSpace Project.

Comprising 25 – 30sqm floor area, EconoSpaces can either be self-contained or conjoined to create larger buildings.
The framing system of the EconoSpace is based on the construction of simple components and their assembly into a versatile structure. The video illustrates this process – from the laying of ground beams to the closing in of the roof.
Once the frame has been roofed work can proceed on the cladding of the walls, the installation of windows, doors, insulation and services.
EconoSpaces can be created on a small budget and within a timeframe suited to most people. Information on how you can create your own EconoSpace/s is currently being compiled. Progress on this will be reported in Sheltermaker.



EconoSpace house. Small, timber structure developed to share as an idea that others could use in order to break themselves in gently into the idea and practicalities of home building. No need for planning if built on a site with an existing building.


Cheap to build, locally sourced materials. Based on sound down-to-earth principles which look to a future without oil and without a lot of what we all expect to have today. A building and methodlodgy designed to unite the home owner/builder with their shelter/home.


Locally sourced materials: wood, clay, straw. Add ons: rain collection, wind energy, compost toilet, read bed system, permaculture garden.


Emphasis on bringing together the person and the home. Allowing the home-owner and builder to have an input throughout the building.




Self- Peter Cowman


Locally sourced : Timber,  Clay,  Straw.


Wood burner.


Rain water collected from the roof and mains.


Reed bed system


Permaculture garden and vegetable patch


Examples of buildings by Peter Cowman in Co. Leitrim:
   Ard Nahoo Health farm, Dromahair:  Yoga Room
   Johnny Gogan, Film maker, Dromahair: Studio
   Sean and Brid Conlon, Dromahair: Extension to a stone cottage
   Gareth Phelan, Tullaghan: Studio

Satisfaction Rating: Work in progress


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