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Archive for February, 2012

Finished straw/clay sauna with post and beam and metal roofing

Finished straw/clay sauna with post and beam and metal roofing


Drawing showing rocket stove heater and urbanite foundation

Drawing showing rocket stove heater and urbanite foundation


“Ok, the Rocket Stove heated, Cob Sauna is on!! There is a client who will pay me to build one, which is GREAT! ‘Cause it means I’ll actually have the time to build it, and see it finished in a timely manner.

I’ve delivered the urbanite for the foundation today, I’ll be prepping the parts and picking out the brick and whatnot tomorrow. Hopefully by Friday, I’ll have the rocket stove guts layed out and working. Most of the guts of the stove are going to be below floor level, so I gotta build the stove and the foundation together.

Ok. Today I built the platform that the stove will sit on and insulated underneath with pumice. I chose pumice ’cause I’ve had it laying around for some time and it was a freebie, also I expect that it will encounter moisture occasionally. Seems to me that pumice will handle a periodic wetting better than perlite or something like that. Today I also built and tested a quick-and-dirty 6 inch rocket stove on the platform. It felt right, to gauge system size by just making one and staring at it. It seemed to me, (after fiddling with wet wood in a wet 6″ stove on a gusty day) that an eight inch system will likely be more appropriate.. So tomorrow, I tear it all off and build an eight inch system in it’s place.”

Read the rest at the source: Sauna Project

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Rustic whole-tree timberframe (click to enlarge)

Rustic whole-tree timberframe (click to enlarge)


Rustic whole-tree timberframe (click to enlarge)

Rustic whole-tree timberframe (click to enlarge)


Rustic whole-tree timberframe (click to enlarge)

Rustic whole-tree timberframe (click to enlarge)


Here’s another beautiful custom home design by Whole Tree Architecture.com. We covered their work in a previous blog post on Whole-tree Building that was very popular and so I decided to expand on this topic some more. You can think of whole-tree building as maximizing the trees that nature gives us to create rustic timberframe structures. Many can’t afford or don’t have the skill to build a classic post and beam house, but whole-tree building is simple enough and inexpensive enough for everyone. The cost can be extremely low if you obtain the wood from local forests.

“Kara House was designed and built for two sisters of the Wheaten Franciscan Order, which focuses on
– Promoting peace;
– Effecting reconciliation;
– And being in solidarity with the poor; thus,
– Bringing hope to all.

Every Whole Trees house is a combination of accumulating green-building craft and nudging the frontiers of sustainable construction. It’s reassuring and illuminating to see what has come before as we get ready to inch forward. This house is straw bale with a sod roof and passive solar design.”

Source: Digging in the Driftless

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Spiral stairway-fireplace from the Owner-Built Home

Spiral stairway-fireplace from the Owner-Built Home


Spiral home from the Owner-Built Home

Spiral home from the Owner-Built Home


Climate control from the Owner-Built Home

Climate control from the Owner-Built Home

Ken Kern traveled the world in search of innovative building ideas and reported his findings and ideas in The Owner Built Home. In my previous blog post about Kern, I said I would highlight more of his ideas. Well, here are three more ideas in addition to the Plunger Pile Floor System. Imagine hundreds of pages of ideas like this!

From the Kasparowitz blog: “Besides writing and selling books, Ken would answer questions and even give you a sketch through the mail for $10!! If you were then interested, he would actually draw up plans for your owner-built home.” [Ed. Hmm. Maybe I should do this?]

Images source: kasparowitz.blogspot.com

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Weaver-Hovemann timberframe and straw/clay home by EcoNest

Weaver-Hovemann timberframe and straw/clay home by EcoNest


Timberframe and straw/clay house in Crestone, Colorado (click to enlarge)

Timberframe and straw/clay house in Crestone, Colorado (click to enlarge)


Mixing straw/clay for filling gaps between straw bales

Mixing straw/clay for filling gaps between straw bales


Straw/clay has been in use for thousands of years with great success. The focus of our blog is obviously earthbag building, but we’ve decided to include coverage of other natural building methods to broaden our horizons and reach a wider audience. It’s good to know a whole range of building ideas so you can obtain the best possible house. For instance, maybe you want to use earthbags on exterior walls and straw/clay on interior walls. This is a very good option that requires no formwork. You could stuff straw/clay inside pallet walls for soundproofing between rooms. Most often straw/clay is combined with a timberframe that carries the loads.

“One of the best low-cost insulating materials is clay-coated straw (or other lightweight plant materials). A light coating of clay acts as both a binder and preservative. Clay-coated straw has been shown to last over 700 years as a non-deteriorating insulation! As the clay dries, it binds the straw together in a surprisingly rigid mass. It’s a “natural styrofoam”.

Materials
Any stiff agricultural waste similar to straw will work. Hay is too flimsy and has seeds, so it doesn’t work very well. Barley straw, wheat straw, and other grain straws work well. Clay can be gotten from the earth. Many subsoils are primarily clay. River bottoms and river banks are usually clay. Clay is also used by brick and tile manufacturers and can be bought from them cheaply. (in our area, about $16 per ton)
Even soil which has a moderate amount of clay such as commonly used for adobe, about 35-50% clay, will work. The slurry is not as sticky, compared with pure clay, but even ordinary mud works well enough. This is not rocket science. Use a dry wall stirring paddle and electric drill to mix the clay or mix in any kind of mixer. Mud mixed in a box with a hoe works.

Method
1. Break the clay into small particles so that it will mix with water easily.
2. Make up a slurry of clay and water. Any soil that is mostly clay will also work. The consistency should be like cream or a thin milk shake.
3. Spread the straw out on the ground. Dampen the straw with a spray nozzle if available.
4. Pour (drizzle) the slurry over the straw, then toss and mix the straw so that it becomes lightly coated. Ordinary garden rakes work well. The clay should only very lightly coat the straw. This is NOT adobe. Maybe 5-10% clay, 90-95% straw. When dried in the wall, you can hardly see the clay, but it binds the straw together very well.

Uses
In addition to being an insulator, it can be used as a wall forming material. In the middle ages, even up to the present time, the method works like this:

1. A post and beam structure is first built.
2. Two boards are temporarily nailed to the posts, one on each side.
3. The resulting cavity is filled with straw-clay.
4. The material is tamped down (a 2×4, 4×4, or small post will do). The idea is not to compact it into a solid mass, you couldn’t do it easily anyway because the straw will remain springy until it dries.
5. The two side boards are moved up immediately and stuffed again and again until the wall is as high as desired. No need to wait for the straw-clay to dry before moving the boards up. (A moveable, sliding form could also be used to make walls.)
6. A saw is used to cut out windows, or window frames are placed first.
7. The wall is allowed to dry and is hand plastered inside and out. The soft undulating plastering adds a charm that cannot be found in modern buildings.”

Source: Planetary Renewal.org
Image source: EcoNest
Image source: Windy Ridge Woodworks
Image source: Our House of Straw

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Buildings without Architects

Buildings without Architects


“A wonderfully informative reference on vernacular styles, from adobe pueblos and Pennsylvania barns to Mongolian yurts and Indonesian stilt houses.

This small but comprehensive book documents the rich cultural past of vernacular building styles, from Irish sod houses to sub-Saharan wattle-and-daub huts and redwoods treehouses. It offers inspiration for home woodworking enthusiasts as well as architects, conservationists, and anyone interested in energy-efficient building and sustainability. The variety and ingenuity of the world’s vernacular building traditions are richly illustrated, and the materials and techniques are explored. With examples from every continent, the book documents the diverse methods people have used to create shelter from locally available natural materials, and shows the impressively handmade finished products through diagrams, cross-sections, and photographs. Unlike modern buildings that rely on industrially produced materials and specialized tools and techniques, the everyday architecture featured here represents a rapidly disappearing genre of handcrafted and beautifully composed structures that are irretrievably “of their place.” These structures are the work of unsung and often anonymous builders that combine artistic beauty, practical form, and necessity.”

Amazon.com

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Adobe house built in Bosque Farms, New Mexico, during the 1930s as part of a government home-building program. Today, “government agencies more typically create roadblocks to the use of earth for building, and are reluctant to provide funding for such a supposedly 'poor' material.”

Adobe house built in Bosque Farms, New Mexico, during the 1930s as part of a government home-building program. Today, “government agencies more typically create roadblocks to the use of earth for building, and are reluctant to provide funding for such a supposedly 'poor' material.”


“The building of homes with adobe is a centuries-old tradition in the state of New Mexico, long preceding the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores. The indigenous peoples of New Mexico had used earth for their dwellings for centuries, and the later Spanish arrivals were quick to adapt the indigenous earth-building techniques to their own purposes. Looking back at New Mexico’s building history, adobe was the obvious choice in rural areas and in smaller communities where people did not have the more substantial budgets of the larger cities. Partly because of this very availability, adobe is considered by many to be a poverty material that will wash away with the first rain. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is often forgotten that when the United States was dealing with the economic depression of the 1930’s, the federal government sponsored adobe home-building project in several locations across the country. One outstanding example was at Bosque Farms, a small farming community a few miles south of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The community was established to help relocate farm families devastated by the droughts that created the “Great Dust Bowl” of northern New Mexico, west Texas and Oklahoma.

A portion of a 28,000-acre tract of land, originally part of the holdings of Don Soloman Luna (Los Lunas, NM), was divided into 43 tracts of 40 to 80 acres each. On May 2, 1935, a public drawing was held, and the tracts were sold to the winners of the drawing for $140 per acre. The purchasers had 40 years to pay the government back for their land. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) then cleared the land and built homes for the new land-owners. These homes were first leased and later sold to the occupants. Few details are available on how the construction was actually accomplished, but it is likely that local people, and probably many of the future occupants themselves, were hired to construct the houses of Bosque Farms.”

Architect Paul G. (Buzz) McHenry has more than 30 years of professional experience working with adobe and has published several well-known books on adobe construction.
Source text and image: Arid Lands Newsletter

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The Rural Studio from BluePrint Productions on Vimeo.

One of the earliest Rural Studio projects -- the main house made from straw bales, and a smoker out front made of recycled broken concrete and bottles. (click to enlarge)

One of the earliest Rural Studio projects -- the main house made from straw bales, and a smoker out front made of recycled broken concrete and bottles. (click to enlarge)

“The Rural Studio is a design-build architecture studio run by Auburn University which aims to teach students about the social responsibilities of the profession of architecture while also providing safe, well-constructed and inspirational homes and buildings for poor communities in rural west Alabama, part of the so-called “Black Belt”.

The studio was founded in 1993 by architects Samuel Mockbee and D. K. Ruth. Each year the program builds five or so projects – a house by the second-year students, three thesis projects by groups of 3-5 fifth year students and one or more outreach studio projects. The Rural Studio has built more than 80 houses and civic projects in Hale, Perry and Marengo counties. The Rural Studio is based in Newbern, a small town in Hale County. Many of its best-known projects are in the tiny community of Mason’s Bend, on the banks of the Black Warrior River.

The $20K House is an ongoing research project at the Rural Studio that seeks to address the pressing need for decent and affordable housing in Hale County, Alabama. Nearly 30% of individuals in Hale County live in poverty. Due to the lack of conventional credit for people with this level of income, and insufficient knowledge about alternative sources of funding, mobile homes offer the only chance for home ownership. Unlike a house, which is an asset for its owner, trailers deteriorate very quickly and depreciate in value over time. The $20k house project intends to produce a model home that could be reproduced on a large scale, and thereby become a viable alternative to the mobile home in this area. The challenge is to build a house for $20,000, ten to twelve thousand of which will go towards materials and the remainder on contracted labor. Once a truly successful model has been designed, the aim is to sell the houses in conjunction with the “502 Direct Loan” provided by the Rural Housing Service. The project began in 2005, and there have been 9 iterations of the house so far. The project is typically carried out by four outreach students; international post-graduates with a background in architecture or design.”

Source: Wiki
Image source: Flickr
Video source
The Rural Studio Film
Rural Studio website

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